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Christmas in Tanzania


Tania
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We had a wonderful Christmas in Tanzania traveling through the Northern Circuit. I traveled with my 15 year old son, my childhood friend Jill and her 15 yr old daughter and 12 year old son.
First off I would like to say that the choice of Safari Infinity with Kelly as our guide was the best decision I made. Lucia and Sam owners of Safari Infinity dedicated to ensuring the trip went smoothly. Email communication before the trip was always prompt and helpful. They met us before and after the trip to see what our expectations were and then if they were met.
Kelly our guide was fabulous, he was knowledgeable and fun! The kids had a blast with him and christened him Indiana Kelly when he was driving through the mud. My son would play the Indiana Jones theme song on his iPad piano or Jills' son would whistle the song when Kelly started slipping and sliding. If the Land Crusier wasn't covered in mud at the end of the day, they called him Grandpa Kelly!
The weather during our two weeks was great, it only rained the first three at night while we slept and then three times for about a half hour to an hour on different three days. The mornings were usually bright and sunny then it clouded over in the afternoon.
Our trip was fabulous; we saw so many animals and had wonderful experiences. Kelly asked us on our last day what our highlights were from the trip and I truly had a hard time picking. The animals were beautiful and so incredible close. The landscape changes along the way surprised me, I was taken in by the beauty of each one, all so different but yet so close together. The people were charming and always with a smile. We hunted with the Hadza trip and visited the Dtoga, which was definitely one of my favorite days.The first day we arrived in Tanzania every time I got excited about something, I'd say "Guys, we're in Africa", over the course of the two weeks it was repeated over and over by each one of us. Then one person would just say 'guys.." And everyone would call back...'we're in Africa'.
Our first full day of the trip we went up Mt Meru to ride camels to a baboon cave and waterfall. It had rained heavily during the night and the rain had washed out the main entrance road so the camp told us to take a different road in which had less rivers to cross. Well the first river we met had washed out the road, so I said, 'No problem Kelly, we don't have to ride camels, we can turn back.' But Kelly got out of the 4x4 and checked it out, throwing several rocks in to see how deep it was. Two motorcycles came up behind us, one man had his wife as a passenger. After some chatting with Kelly the motorcycles tested the road, leaving the wife behind with us. They made it safely so the wife jumped in the 4x4 with us and we went through the river laughing and clapping as we hit dry ground. The wife hopped out and back on the bike with her husband and off we went.
A few minutes later we came upon a second river which was worse than the first, with big boulders that were right where the road used to be. We all piled out of the 4x4 to watch the water take most of the road downstream.
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A Maasai shepherd walked up to look and then the two guys and a lady on motorcycles turn up. Everyone was chatting and deciding what to do, then a barefoot man with a small garbage bag walks up and trudges into the water, calling back that we could make it if we move two boulders. So the Shepherd, one of the motorcycle men and the barefoot man take our shovel and walk into the river to move the boulders. It took a while but they did it. We made it across very slowly, I just kept watching the ten foot drop on the left side. Needless to say the kids thought it was amazing.
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The motorcycle guys ended up staying with us till the next river and we took the wife in the jeep with us. The third river was the worst of the bunch, the water was raging and the road used to be on an angle across the river, so it was hard to tell were to drive. After many stone throwing and the motorcycles trying different routes to get across, Kelly told us to jump in the 4x4, we were going to make it. I kept saying, you know we don't really have to ride a camel today. But he just smiled and said all was good. He was right again, we made it after a few scary moments.
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We then came across a man standing in the road waiting to show us the way to the Mkuru Camel Camp, which was across fields of mud. The 4x4 was sliding all over the place, while cows and donkeys walked around us. There was even a truck stuck by a tree that we came in inches of hitting. We finally made it to the camel camp, which was really about five scattered huts on the side of Mt Meru. After a cup of tea, while we waited for the trail to dry, we met our camels and handlers. One camel was decisively in a bad mood and wouldn't listen to its handler. Boy, are camels scary when they get angry, the teeth on it were huge! Finally it was decided that that camel was going back to the paddock and the two smaller kids would share a camel.
Everyone got on and away we rode. Sadly there was no camel for Kelly but he walked the whole way, to make sure we were safe and sound. The kids loved riding the camels, my son especially!
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The scenery was stunning, rolling hills of small trees with shepherd children watching over their goats, cows and donkeys. We rode past a five hut village surrounded by a twig/stick fence to protect it from lions. Little kids came running out to wave as we rode by.
We rode to a river next to a cliff and dismounted the camels. We walked over to the edge of the cliff where the river became a water fall. On the far side of the cliffs we saw caves where the baboons slept at night. One of the men explained to us that the waterfall area was also used by the Maasai people for a yearly celebration where they men would come and stay for 3 days and nights. The Baboons would accept them for the yearly event and not attack the men (and Vis versa).
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The waterfall went down two levels; it was dark brown muddy water from the heavy rains the night before. Then we climbed around to the side of the cliff to get a better view of the falls and caves. The view behind us took my breath, the valley towards Kenya was flat and filled with shepherds and their flocks. After a while we all jumped back on the camels and rode back to camp for a very tasty lunch before heading to Arusha. Back at The Planet Lodge we met up with Lucia and Simon(Sam) to talk about the following two weeks.
More to follow..
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The next two days we stayed at the Whistling Thorn Camp. This is where Kelly was first called Indiana Kelly. Getting to this camp is an adventure in itself. The trails are not marked well and with the rain during the night it was a clay skating rink. We laughed so hard in between the moments of panic. I only got scared when the 4x4 felt like it was going to tip, the rest of the time I was laughing.

Whistling Thorn is a tented camp run by the Maasai, the tents are older but clean and comfortable. This was our favourite camp for safari experience, food and people! Only Kisea Ndgena Camp at Lake Eysai beat it for beauty and luxury.


One of my favourite lines from the whole trip is when Jills' daughter asked her if she could go back to the tent after dinner, Jill answered "as long as you have your Maasai Warrior with you it's ok" when is she ever going to say that again!

It was reassuring to know that Mika was only a few steps away from my son and I while we we wondered around the camp. Both nights there we we awoken by a herd of zebras around our tents at 4am. What a great introduction to tented camps and a safari!


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On our first morning when we left for the day, the road-trail was extremely bad after a night time rain. We had some close calls on getting stuck but Indiana Kelly made it through. Sadly one tire didn't make it! Kelly found dry ground near a small river to change the tire. The road here was washed out so we would have to find another way across after fixing the tire. As Kelly set to work we all jumped out an began to explore the area. We eventually started to draw a crowd, first a Maasai shepherd boy with his cows and then a group of kids all watched us from across the river. It was a funny site, our group on one side and the Tanzanian children on the other. A few adults walked by but didn't linger except one fellow who waded through the river to help with the tire. The shepherd boy decided he could do it too and left his cows to wander while he crossed the river. Upon seeing him successfully across some of the other bigger kids decided to brave the crossing. My father had given me a bag full of Canadian Flags and pins to give out on our trip, so out came the flags( made of paper with a paper pole as well) one of the bigger girls went back across the river to give flags to the little kids who couldn't make it across. When the tire was changed we found another spot to cross the water leaving the flag waving children behind us. We went to a small town by the highway to fix the flat tire before heading to the park. I was sadden by the state of the town, the garbage and general filth. Kelly explained it was a market town so vendors just left their trash and went home at the end of the day. We walked around a bit while the tire was being repaired but it wasn't the prettiest of places for a morning walk.


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The two days in Tarangire were wonderful; I don't think I will ever live down my first animal spotting. Kelly had just given us the talk about being quiet when close to the animals. Not 300 yards inside the park entrance I spot two Warthogs and yell all excited 'Warthogs' who promptly ran away. For the rest of the trip anytime I dared to ask the kids to be quiet, they would say, oh like you we so quiet with the Warthogs!

Tarangire Park was packed full of animals! Every corner we came across something. No exaggeration we saw over 200 elephants the first day and over 300 the second day plus lions, giraffes, zebras, bat eared foxes, draft mongoose, monitor lizard, Blackback Jackals, banned mongoose, hydras, Heartbeast, Dik Diks, leopard tortoise, impalas..... We even came upon a pair of mating lions that were chased away by a herd of elephants, with trumpets blaring and the lion roaring back! What a first day sighting!

I had read so often on Trip Advisor that Tarangire was not great at Christmas time, well I beg to differ! The only thing we didn't see was leopards but we made up for it in Manyara, the Serengeti and Ndutu several times over.



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We spent Christmas Eve at the Whistling Thorn and were treated to a ceremonial dance and song by the light of the fire. I am still in awe at the depths of their chants, it was hypnotizing. Happily I recorded it and have listen to it many times since.

Jill thought I was crazy when I told her she had to bring Christmas Stockings for herself and her kids. She thought I had lost it when I told her I was bringing battery operated Christmas lights and Santa hats. But she thanked me Christmas Day! We decorated our tents Christmas Eve and the kids loved it!( so did I). When are we ever going to sit in the Tanzanian bush on Christmas morning and open presents again! Go big or go home!

It was a wonderful morning with smiles all round. Kelly joined us for breakfast and the kids gave him his Christmas Stocking. Kelly was very touched and told us it was his very first Christmas gift and Stocking! In his tribe they give clothes to the children and food to elders. Kelly seemed very pleased with his cool sunglasses and collection of treats.!

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When we left Whistling Thorn, the whole staff came out to say goodbye. They held a photo shoot with every member of the staff in a picture with the kids, then group shots of all of us. I handed out Canadian pins to everyone. One girl thought they would make great earrings and put one in each ear. Everyone was laughing and cheering as we left.


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Lake Manyara next installment
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A great start to this report, it´s obvious how much you enjoyed this safari. The pic of the kids with Christmas stockings really made me smile. :)

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We spent Christmas Morning on a cultural walk, visiting a banana plantation, rice fields, a small village and finished off at the market were Jill bought a pair of Maasai warrior shoes made out of motorcycle tires. The kids had a great time playing with the local children and put a Canadian pin on every child that came running.


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By 11 am we were in Lake Manyara National Park. Again I was amazed at the landscape change! This park maybe smaller than the rest but certainly worth a visit. We saw fewer animals than Tarangire but I went to Africa for the experience not just the animals. Don't get me wrong we saw tons of monkeys and baboons, zebras, hippos, giraffe and a leopard...We didn't see any lions but really there is more to Tanzania than lions! I loved the jungle feel of Manyara, at times it felt like we were in Jurassic Park and then we were bang out on the plains in the scorching heat!

At one point when we were watching the monkeys, there was a huge scream from Jill. Kelly jumped thinking a monkey had climbed in the 4x4. But no it was just a really big beetle! Jill was freaking until Kelly got it out. She said she wouldn’t have screamed for a monkey, but a beetle now that's scary!


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Christmas night we stayed at the Lake Manyara Wildlife Safari Camp. It was very pretty and had great hot showers especially after two nights of bucket showers. The kids were happy for a swim in the pool that has a fabulous view over the plains below.

This lodge was nice but not our favourite, too 'resort feeling' for us and the food was nothing compared to our Massai cook at Whistling Thorn. Mind you Drunk Santa was entertaining at first, then he began to disturb the musicians and dancers during the after dinner show. However the bed was comfy and there was wifi to touch base with family at home.


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Our next two days were spent in Central Serengeti. The drive there through the Ngorongoro highlands was spectacular with a brief stop at the lookout over the Crater where everyone said, 'WOW'. Looking down into the crater with the scattered clouds making the greens of the valley have a marbled effect was simply breathtaking!

Our first day driving in the Serengeti was definitely a highlight! Driving down into the plains we met the migration of Wildebeest and Zebras. What a sight that is! It was in the triangle where you could go off road and Kelly took full advantage of it for us! Jill just kept saying, "Kelly this is incredible!" And it was! Driving through the herds as they ran around us was magical, straight out of a documentary, with the animals galloping ahead of us. There were so many animals that they turned into black dots on the horizon like a mirage.

Before the end of the day we had seen the millions of migration animals plus lions, giraffes, elephants and we were very lucky to see a Caracal Cat with her cub AND a Serval Cat.


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At one point Kelly stopped the 4x4 and stood up, we all searched left and right to see what he had seen. When we asked him what he saw, he said 'what do you see?’ We all looked around trying to figure out what animal was hiding in plains sight. No one could find anything; Kelly said again, 'what do you see?' Then I saw, we were in the middle of the Serengeti in Africa with miles of plains and bush around us, it was beautiful. The sun was starting to go down so the colours were stunning. There was no human noises, no traffic, no stress, it was peaceful. Guys... We're in Africa! Kelly just wanted us to stop and absorb the setting and remember where we were, it's not just about how many lions you see, it's about the beauty and magnitude of where you are.


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One of many unforgettable memories is the first night in the Serengeti when the Kati Kati Camp changed our reservation from camp 1 to 2 but we didn't find out until we pulled in to camp just after the sun set, we stayed with the Serval Cat a bit too long. Kelly had tried to call several times during the day to make sure we were still at camp 1; it seems this is a regular occurrence with Kati Kati, anyways they never answered their phones. So there we were in the dark heading out to camp 2 which is on the other side of the hill. The camp people pushed Kelly to take the short cut over the hill and promised the road was good even after the rain. So off we go in the dark over the hill, it was quite magical to see the hyenas running along beside us. Then a bit later a herd of zebras were galloping across the road and Kelly had to choose to take the left path or the right path around a bush. The zebras were on the left so we went right and straight into a hole of water and mud. We all hear the ‘thunk’ as we hit the bottom and no one said a word as Kelly put his head on the steering wheel in frustration. We were stuck. The two cross wheels were not touching solid ground. So there we were at 7:30 at night in the complete pitch black with a herd of zebras starring at us. Luckily for us there was cell service and Kelly was able to call the camp to send help.

Jill and I acted in true Canadian fashion and pulled out a bottle of wine for her and gin and tonic for me. We then played cribbage by the light of our battery operated Christmas lights that the kids had strung up on the inside of the pop top roof. The kids started watching a movie on the iPad. We had a great time! The sounds were fabulous; the lion calling was eerie but the zebras never left us so he must have been far enough away.

Help arrived and after many, many attempts we were pulled to dry land. At which point one of the very tipsy ladies got out of the cruiser to find a bush! I jumped out too but I just stood there at the back of the 4x4 and looked around and listened. It was beautiful, the stars and the absolute calm. In the end I was joined by Jill and two of the kids, we all just absorbed our surroundings. One of those Ahh moments.

For the next two days our 4x4 was the talk of the other guides. Kelly couldn't wash the 4x4 at the camp because all the water for the camp was trucked in and it would be wasteful to use it on the 4x4. So everyone wanted to know why it was black with mud, was the road bad ahead, should they turn around? We told Kelly he should make up a good story to tell about a rampaging elephant or something!


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Our next day brought lions, lions and lions! We saw a mating couple attack each other after their romantic moment. I got one of my favourite photos of the trip as the two lions fought.

Later we saw a herd of buffalo chase a lioness up a tree. She was gorgeous and huge! We went back to see her later in the day, the buffalo were gone but she was sleeping soundly in her tree.

On another spot we saw four lions getting chased by 3 big buffalo, at one point they all stood their ground and stared like a Mexican Standoff, but the lions lost and went a good distance before lying down again. After witnessing three times lions being chased off by elephants and buffaloes, I am not so sure that lions are the king of the jungle!

We came upon a pride of lions with 10 cubs, 6 juveniles and 7 lionesses sleeping under a tree. There was the remains of a zebra off to the side with the vultures picking over the remains.

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We also saw more Bat Eared Foxes; we ended up seeing them in Tarangire, Serengeti and Ndutu. We even saw a Slender Mongoose which wasn't even on the list of animals Safari Infinity gave us! I came to realize that if Kelly got out his camera we were seeing something special!

One other driver stopped us to say they had seen some wild dogs but by the time we go to where they were spotted they were gone.

Kati Kati Camp was very nice with big clean tents. It lacked the personality of Whistling Thorn but was a better quality of tents. Both nights we were there the animals came to visit. Hyenas were very bold and came within feet of the dining tent. In the end the camp went and got the water truck to chase them away. My son and I were awoken by a herd of Buffalo, one of which sounded like he was grazing a few feet from my head. But the best were the early mornings just before the sun came up, I could hear the lions calling, zebras, hyenas and the birds. Then as the sun started to rise I would sneak out of the tent onto the mat outside the zipper and watch the sunrise and just listen to the sounds.

On the very first morning of our trip I was also up extremely early and I voice recorded the sounds of the birds outside my room in Arusha. Then almost every morning of my trip I recorded the sounds. I listened to them with a friend yesterday and it was incredible to relive the moments! I highly suggest anyone going to do the same!


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Nothing like starting off with some washed out roads followed by a camel ride in the mud!

 

Then drunk santa!!

 

Then you get a caracal and a serval same day!!!

 

What can be next? You have my ear.

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@@Tania

This is a really enjoyable report - you're enthusiasm shines through. It is amazing seeing a serval and a caracal!

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@@Tania

This is a really enjoyable report - you're enthusiasm shines through. It is amazing seeing a serval and a caracal!

 

Agreed, the enthusiasm is fantastic, and you certainly had some great sightings. Although I would like to see a photo of the drunk Santa!

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If this was your first safari ( your profile indicates first time tourist) then your experiencecwas really amazing. Apart from all the really intersting cultural experiences, your wildlife viewings were, I think, about as good as it gets for the places you visited / time of year.

 

With four previous safaris in Africa I have never seen a caracal and only a fleeting glimpse of a serval.

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Great trip report so far, very enjoyable.

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Looking down into the crater with the scattered clouds making the greens of the valley have a marbled effect was simply breathtaking!

Beautifully written, with a photo to match.

 

You had great luck with the "little" cats. Your hyena photo is one of the cuter I've seen on here recently, and your lion photo is a classic!

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Thanks for all your comments! It was an amazing trip, we were very lucky to see as much as we did!
@
KaingU Lodge
Here's Drunk Santa - he smelled like his suit hadn't been washed in a few years as well!

IMG 4713

 

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Ndutu area brought on another landscape and many wonderful sites. Cheetahs galore, three different mums with 2, 3 and 4 cubs all varying in ages. We were alone with a mum and her two cubs for quite some time and witness the mum take down a baby Thompson Gazelle so quickly some of us didn't even realize it had happened until she through the body at her cubs. We stayed with them for their meal and they were kind enough to eat within 4 feet of our 4x4. A funny moment happened when Kelly (after many words to us to remain quiet and as still as possible) lets out a huge sneeze! The cubs went flying off in different directions, hiding behind a bush and a tree. Mum just looked around and went back to licking her paws till the cubs got the courage to come back.


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We spent some time with the Marsh Pride of lions(17) and watched them on a failed hunt attempt but it was interesting to see how they all work together and try and circle their prey.

We got up close and personal with several leopards, one of which was Kelly's highlight of the trip.

Traveling with three teenagers and sitting for long periods of time can make the best kids squirrelly. Well two of our three started to get fidgety on our first day in Ndutu. Kelly feeling the mood change suddenly stopped the 4x4 under a tree and told the kids to put their running shoes on. When everyone had piled out of the Cruiser, Kelly challenged them to a race. Back and forth to a fallen tree they ran, till they were utterly exhausted. We all jumped back in the 4x4 and went on our merry way all happy and relaxed!


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We stayed at the Ndutu Lodge and what a nice place it is! We loved the Genets that live in the rafters of the lobby, the babies were very cute, one fell off the ledge during dinner and the whole restaurant gasped as he hit the floor! His mum was quick to rush to him; he seemed to be alright as she carried him off to safety.

We enjoyed our stay at Ndutu Lodge, it is a peaceful place. A herd of zebras kept Jill and I company as we sat on the porch and drank our wine, then in the morning two Dik Diks were grazing right by my door.


Our second morning in Ndutu we went on a bush walk with a ranger. The kids thought it was very cool that we walked past the spot they had seen a male lion the afternoon before. We walked down to the lake and checked out all the animal tracks and of course had lessons on whose dung was whose. The kids liked looking at all the bones and trying to guess what animal they came from.

When we headed back we cut through the bush where we were flanked on one side by a herd of zebras and a herd of wildebeests on the other. The animals just watched us for a while until they thought we were too close and both groups then stampeded away from us. What a sound it was! The ground really did shake! Both herds stopped in the distance but still in our path, so when we approached again they stampeded a second time. This time they left us in the dust! It definitely made for an interesting walk!


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After lunch we headed towards the Ngorongoro Crater passing through the plains and again meeting a huge part of the migration. Kelly stopped the 4x4 in the middle of the plain and we all jumped out for another running race. I think the animals must have stood there watching us like we were crazy.

Back on the road we started the climb the Ngorongoro highlands. The landscape here was stunning. It went from rolling hills of lush green without a tree insight to a Jurassic Park feeling with all the tall trees and vines.

We stayed the night at the Sofia Lodge on the cliff of the crater, the view was beautiful. The hotel is upscale and definitely doesn't feel like the safari experience but we had originally booked it for New Year’s Eve, hoping there would be a party to celebrate the year end. However I changed the itinerary before the trip and added a night in Lake Eysai and with drive times it fit in better after Ngorongoro. Another advantage of the Sofia is that it is right next to an entrance to the Crater. So we were the first into the crater in the morning with only one 4x4 in sight.


Within five minutes of being in the crater we came upon two lionesses and two cubs right beside the road. We stayed with them for a while as they got up and trotted down the road beside us.


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At first we didn't see many other animals and I even comment to Kelly that everyone said the crater was like a zoo. He smiled and said that we had been lucky to be in the migration but wait I would see what people were talking about. Shortly after I did see what people meant! The thing that surprised me was that the lions and prey were all so close together. The zebras and Wildebeests just grazed at a safe distance from the lounging lions. In the other parks when you saw a lion there were no prey around, they ran when they spotted lions.

We spent a wonderful morning hanging out at the hippo pools, saw a Golden Jackal and spotted 6 rhinos, sadly all the rhinos in the distance. We also saw a wildebeest that looked like she was in labour. Kelly watched for a while and informed us that she was having a bad birth and was struggling. It became sad watching her and not wanting to see her die, we moved on.


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Another thing I noted about the crater was the animals are less skittish and would stay still when a 4x4 came close. So getting close ups shots was easy.

We broke for breakfast in a forest area after seeing some lions chomping on a buffalo. After breakfast, Kelly and one of the boys got out a soccer ball and had a great match off. Kelly later informed me that this was his second highlight of the trip for him, playing soccer in the Ngorongoro Crater.

When we headed out of the valley the drive up the mountain was spectacular. We all stood up with our heads out the pop top and soaked in the view and Jurassic Park feel as the 4x4 strained to reach the top.


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Next up Lake Eysai


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Our next stop was Lake Eysai at the Kisea Ndgena Tented Camp. The drive there took us through another landscape type, one of scrub brush and dry infertile land. It was also the poorest area we encountered made even more evident by the United Way and Red Cross buildings. The homes were smaller and run down and the cattle were replaced with goats and pigs. Kelly said the average person made $2.00 a day in the area. It was a reminder to all of us that we won the birth lottery being from Canada.


As we approach the camp the landscape changed from the dust brush to a lush jungle feel. Giant palm trees and dense forest with cliffs of rocks towered above. The camp was truly beautiful, like an oasis. The tents were raised on platforms with thatched roofs. Each tent had a patio with a day bed and table and chairs. The camp is run by a German man and his Argentinian wife. They had run the place as a cow and fish farm for years but changed over to a camp when farming became difficult due to the lack of grazing. They still have a small fish farm to serve the camp.

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This was my favourite camp for quality of tents and setting. The kids loved the pool and the mini rain storm that happen when we arrived. They of course didn't use the umbrellas and ran laughing through the rain like a game. Jill and I took the time to sit on the porch, enjoy the sights and sounds with some wine. We even had a visit from a Velvet Monkey who thought our green apple looked too tasty to miss. He played peekaboo with us before being brave enough to swing down and steal the apple from the table.


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Dinner was fish from the pond, fresh and tasty! It was New Year’s Eve so I pulled out the paper hats from our Christmas Crackers and a few extra crackers I had left over. (Yes I brought Christmas Crackers from Canada which we used on Christmas Day). Anyways, Kelly had been unable to join us for Christmas dinner, so we opened the remaining crackers with him. Kelly had never seen Christmas Crackers, so the kids had fun showing him how to snap them. We looked silly in our paper hats but it was a good laugh. I also brought sparklers for the kids to light. As none of thought we would be able to stay up for the camp fireworks at midnight so we decided to light them after dinner by the fire. Again this was a first for Kelly; the kids showed him how to write his name with the sparkler as I took slow shutter pictures to show him. We ended up giving Kelly a package of sparklers to take home to show his brothers. It was a lovely night and a great way to start a new year.

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The next morning we visited the Hadza tribe, who are one of the last Hunter Gather tribes still living a somewhat nomad style lifestyle. Kelly brought along Hassan who was to be our translator for the day.


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We first encountered the men of the tribe sitting at the base of a rock cliff around a small fire, while a zebra skin hung from a tree above. The men were straightening their arrows by biting them over and over. Their attire was a mix mash of the old ways and modern handoffs. Baboon skin was the favourite over Bermuda shorts with holes. The best hunter adorned a beaded head dress smaller than the chiefs whose was more elaborate. We then went on to the camp area where stick huts with Palm leaves and pieces of plastic trash were used to keep the rain out.


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The women and children were gathered around a very smoky small fire. I ask Kelly naively if they were letting the smoke cover them for the bugs and he said no it was to keep warm. Honestly they would have to sit right on it to warm up. Kelly said they don't want to waste wood so they huddled together. The women and children were also dress in a bit of mishmash, with old and new colliding.


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My son had had surgery within a month of our trip so we decided that he and I would stay in the camp while the others would go hunting with some of the men of the tribe. I thought he would have a hard time running after the hunters over rocks. But Jill and her two kids went and loved it. At first they were just concentrating on keeping up and not falling as they climbed over the rocky terrain. Then when they stopped to smoke out some bees to eat the larva and the honey the men sat down and smoked a few pipes of weed. After that Jill said it was easy going! :)

Meanwhile we had a great time in the camp. I was snapping pictures left and right! Some of the men who stayed behind showed us how precise they were when shooting arrows. The speed and force the arrows flew was incredible. Kelly tried his hand, his aim was not bad but his arrows floated rather than rocketed.

As I walked around the camp I came upon two girls roasting a goat head on a small fire, not my choice of breakfast! I enjoyed observing the women and children's interactions. One little boy decided to chase his sister with a stick after what appeared to be some nasty teasing from her. Grandma got up and helped the little boy chase after her, the whole gang started laughing.

The men asked my son to sit with them at their fire; the best hunter even gave him his head dress to wear. Very happy teenager!

I had some cigarettes which the men happily took and promptly broke off the filters to smoke. The women were just as eager for the cigarettes and one older woman broke it open and threw just the tobacco in her mouth and happily chewed away.


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After Jill returned from the hunt we all purchased bow and arrows, sadly Jills' two were confiscated at customs in Canada. My son and I manage to walk through with no worries, but ours was completely wrapped with no wood showing.

After a nice box breakfast at a pretty scenic spot, we headed to the Datoga Tribe for a visit. But before I go on, I have to say Kelly was amazing at finding the most scenic places for our lunch or breakfast spots. He would pull off the road and wind through the trees and we would end up at the most gorgeous spots! He would set up tables and chairs for us with our backs to the 4x4 so we could just enjoy the view.

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@@Tania thanks for the drunk Santa - great!

 

What an excellent trip report. I really enjoy the mixture of animals, people, culture and daily life. That elephant shot (between the hippo and zebra) is beautiful. Again your sightings were fantastic. I really do have to get myself to E. Africa one day.....

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Back to the Datogas', with Hassan translating we met a chief with his two wives and their extended family. The Datoga are the blacksmiths for the Hazada Tribe, they make all the arrow heads the Hadza tribe uses. The woman dress in beautiful beaded dresses. Hassan explained to us about life as a Datoga and different customs they have. We visited their homes and watched them in their daily chores. The men were all around a fire making bracelets and arrow heads. We had brought a soccer ball as a gift, which the children loved and Jills’ son had a good game of one on one with a Datoga boy.

We all of course bought bracelets before leaving, my was made from a car radiator, my sons from a padlock and some others were made from cooper from the radiator as well.


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We headed back to Kisema Ngeda Camp for a hot lunch and a swim before heading back to Arusha for our last night of the trip.

Our flight didn't leave until 6pm so we had a nice sleep-in and then met up with the owner of Safari Infinity at The Blue Heron for lunch. Wood stone cooked pizza all round!

After lunch we went to visit Mama Nora's Child Care Trust Orphanage in Usa River. I had brought a extra suitcase full of backpacks and clothes which I had left with Safari Infinity at the beginning of the trip. We also had soccer balls, Frisbees and Rainbow Looms. Rainbow Looms are coloured elastics that kids weave into bracelets. The children loved making the bracelets, Kelly even join in the fun! After a enjoyable few hours we had to go. Our three kids had brought money with them as a donation; we mums kicked in as well and left Mama Nora with some well needed funds.


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Then after a very sad goodbye to Kelly we set off on our long flight home.

My son turned to me as our plane took off and said 'Mum, we were in Africa!' I almost cried.

It was our first African Safari and hopefully not the last!


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Thanks for sharing, I very much enjoyed this report. Your kids are really lucky, I always dreamed of getting to Africa that age.

 

 

 

It was our first African Safari and hopefully not the last!

 

Certainly not, so get into planning mode already! Always helps with the "back home blues". :)

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My friend and I are starting to plan but for the Amazon this time. Africa will have to wait a bit, unless I win the loto and I can quit my job to travel!

Glad you enjoyed the report, I had fun reliving the moments!

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@@Tania

 

My wife and I will be doing a similar trip around Christmas this year.

Some comments on how crowded the parks/sightings were will be highly appreciated.

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@@mvecht the only place were I felt it was crowded was the crater but our driver was excellent and kept us away from the crowds. We arrived at the crater as the gates opened from the far side near the Sofia hotel so it was only us and one other 4x4. Most people enter from the gate closer to the main road, so we didn't see anyone until we got closer to the middle of the crater. However once on that side of the crater there were tons of jeeps. We drove by two poor lions that had over 25 jeeps watching them. Luckily we had already seen them early in the morning when there was only 3 jeeps watching.

Lake Manyara on Christmas Day was busy at the hippo pool and the picnic area but driving in the park was fine.

The central picnic area in the Serengeti was also crowed so our guide took us to the airport to use the bathrooms and to stretch our legs. When we were in Ndutu some hunting lions had drew a large crowd as did a hunting cheetah.

The rest of the trip was not crowded we were alone with the animals most of the time and if not there was maybe 2-3 other jeeps. It really depends on your driver, does he listen to his radio all the time and follow the crowd? Our drive only once used the radio, however he asked drivers sometimes if they had seen something interesting when they drove by but mainly went by past experiences of where the animals hang out.

So crater and some picnic areas are crowded, the rest was great. The best thing to do is go out very early in the morning, most tourist sleep in. Also we stayed out as late as possible - we saw the two Carcol cats and the Serval cat between 6-7pm. We sometimes went back to the camp for lunch if we knew we were going to stay out till sunset.

The weather was good, not too hot most days, cool in the evenings.

Best thing I brought with me was a travel coffee mug that didn't leak. I filled it up with tea in the morning threw it in my bag and I was all set.

I hope you have a wonderful time!

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Looks like an excellent family adventure with great wildlife sightings and cultural experiences. Thanks for sharing everything with us and I hope you get to do so again soon. :)

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