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Selous, Ruaha, Katavi, Serengeti Mara - Sept 23rd to Oct 9th 2015


Julian

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Arrived back yesterday morning. Our fifth safari but the last one was over six years ago.

Our expectations were very high having spent a long time planning and saving for this one.

 

So how was it? ............

 

To sum it up, truly amazing, four very different and very beautiful locations, each one a a large slice of paradise.

 

So much wildlife , so many photos ( over 5000 and about 25 video clips), wonderful camps, great socialising with guests and staff.

 

Really interesting to meet and have conversations at lunch and dinner with Chris Fox , Mike and Debbie Ghaui ( the stories of rhinos charging vehicles in the 1960's were a highlight) , and Simon Allan all at Mwagusi,and then Alex Walker at Serian, plus all the managers including Chania Watts at Selous Impala, Yvonne and Erica ( the accountant) at Mwagusi, the really wacky Julian at Katavi , and Belinda ( Mike Ghaui's sister ) and Gerrard and Tanya at Serian.

 

What did we see?

All the usual suspects, but no wild dogs ( none seen at any of the camps in recent months), but we did see plenty of elephants and their calfs, lions and their cubs, as young as two months old, hyenas including cubs at their den, leopards and cheetahs.

 

Also, from the 'A' list - an Aardvark ( no photos of it unfortunately) on a night drive at Katavi.

 

We had never seen a river crossing of Widebeest in the past of greater than 30 animals ( never able to go in the period August to October) , so seeing a crossing of 1000 Widebeest in less than ten minutes , all safely crossed , was amazing to witness.

 

(Dont know if others have posted on here but there was a wildebbest tradegy around 3 to 4 weeks ago when over 2000 wildebeest tried to cross at Kogatende crossing point no. 1 (or was it no.2 ? ) which has steep banks on both sides. The crossing was at night and all of them died by being trampled/ drowning. Driving through that area the stench is stomach-churning, and one of the camps downwind has had to close as the smell is so bad. The number of vultures who have taken up residence at this location is unbelieveable - must be well over 1000.)

 

Perhaps the outstanding highlight of the wildlife was watching, at very close range, marabu, saddle -billed and other storks catching catfish by standing on the backs of hippos at sunset in Katavi.

 

A full report will follow, with lots of photos, but please be patient, there are many photos to go through.................

Edited by Julian
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OK, that seemed to work so here's a few more, just as a taster, I'm intending to start editing the photos in the next few days , so should be starting to post the detailed report in about a weeks time

Too busy at home recently with other jobs, but I am eager to start this report, so as this is my first trip report I am just going to attempt to post a few photos from the trip, as a taster, assuming

It feels as though we have been here for quite a long while now but, as always on safari, the time seems to pass so slowly for the first 24 hours, and then gradually speeds up as the trip progresses.

I did see photos of that wildebeest incident online (maybe via Africa Geographic?).

Your safari sounds like a success - can't wait to see and read more.

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Atravelynn

5000 shots is actual quite sane. You had outstanding locations. Looking forward to your excellent results.

 

A night time crossing? I thought they did not cross at night. Wonder what prompted them to do a night time crossing.

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A few other things to say in summary about the safari before I get down to the more interesting stuff of the day by day story with the photos ( and videos).

 

Yellow Fever vaccinations ( as we flew from Heathrow via Nairobi to Dar Es Salaam). Although our outward journey only involved a one hour stop, the return leg meant a 8 hour wait at Nairobi, and if there had been delays either way we could have exceeded the 12 hours transit time and therefore required to have a YF cert. Just to say at no point during transit were we ever asked to show a Yellow Fever certificate.

 

Luggage limits on light aircraft. Of the six light aircraft we travelled on the only place where they weighed our luggage was prior to the first light aircraft flight at Dar.

They were not interested in the hand luggage.

 

However we did witness first hand what happens when you are way over the limit. On our flight from Kogatende to Kilimanjaro the plane stopped at Lobo. It was a 12 seater with just us on the first leg with a single group of nine boarding at Lobo. They had a large amount of luggage per person - including large solid cases, clearly way over the limit. The pilot told them he could not take all their luggage - for obvious safety reasons, so there was a delay of half an hour as they repacked and left some of their luggage for their driver/guides (in an &Beyond vehicle) to send on to their destination (Zanzibar).

They were a Dutch family group and the one of the group who sat behind me said that they had come from Kleins Camp to Lobo and before that the Ngorongoro Crater (all overland I assume) , but they didn't have a problem with their luggage to their first destination as they had a 'private plane'.

 

Security at camps - Selous Impala we had a safe in our room, Mwagusi had an office safe - so all cash, cards, documents, passports were in the safes.

Katavi and Serian - no safes so we locked it in our bags , except for half the cash and one credit card which, at those two camps, Rachel (my other half) carried with her at all times.

Never felt the need at any of the camps to have any concern regarding leaving the camera equipment in the 'tents'

 

Tsetse flies - even though this was our fifth safari its the first time we have been anywhere with Tseste flies ( maybe because we have never travelled to East Africa in the period August to October before?)

First afternoon game drive at Selous some appeared, then hardly any more until day 3 and 4 at Mwagusi.

Then they were present everywhere at Katavi and also at Serengeti Mara but much less so.

I had quite a few bites but no further reaction, however Rachel's bites turned in to larger spots, becoming very itchy lumps ( and her feet and ankles swelled up a bit)

She applied antihistamine cream and then when that run out germolene which both helped but new bites appeared as fast as others went.

The swelling has all gone within 24 hours of leaving the bush and the spots have almost all gone three days later.

We used some 60% deet spray, and our sun protection cream also has insect repellent in it. All the vehicles had No Bite spray available for guests and the one at Katavi also had another spray for the vehicle floor/seats.

We now know that taking antihistamine tablets throughout the safari may have helped with the reaction to the bites.

 

Camera problems. First time we have used Digital SLR's on Safari so we took plenty of everything, 3 spare batteries for each of the two cameras, spare chargers, 10 memory cards, lots of lens cleaning things, etc. On day 3 the photos from one of the cameras had a small mark ( like a tiny pieces of hair) about a third of the way down from the top , close to the centre. This was very noticeable on any photos with sky or pale colour at that point.

It turned out it was on the mirror, so I very carefully tried to clean it the following day, just using the puffer, brush and lens tissue.

It had no effect other than to add another similar mark. So I then tried a more serious clean of the mirror with the lens fluid and pec pads. This just made it worse still.

A couple of days later a guest at Katavi, who was more experienced with this, had a go at cleaning it and explained that the marks were on the top reflector mirror. This did improve it a little, but meant that most photos taken on that camera of landscapes have marks on them that are very noticeable.

The lesson we have learnt is not to change lenses ever while out on a game drive.

(I'll also post this camera problem section in the relevant photography section of the forum but wanted to include it here as some of the photos I put in the report may have some marks on them)

Edited by Julian
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5000 shots is actual quite sane. You had outstanding locations. Looking forward to your excellent results.

 

A night time crossing? I thought they did not cross at night. Wonder what prompted them to do a night time crossing.

 

Possibly the crossing was just after sunset or at dawn, Both situations where there would be no vehicles out. Edited by Julian
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Serengetiman

Julian, 99% of the times the dirt is not on the mirror but on the camera sensor itself. Take out the lens, activate the mirror lock-up function on the camera, put the speed dial on B and press the shutter release. Since the mirror will be locked, you will have free acess to clean the sensor. Then use a dust blower to clean the sensor, taking extreme care not to touch the sensor at all, since touching the sensor can damage it permanently, hope my advice is of some help. When changing lens always switch off the camera first, since the static energy in the sensor will attract dust and other blemishes.

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Julian, 99% of the times the dirt is not on the mirror but on the camera sensor itself. Take out the lens, activate the mirror lock-up function on the camera, put the speed dial on B and press the shutter release. Since the mirror will be locked, you will have free acess to clean the sensor. Then use a dust blower to clean the sensor, taking extreme care not to touch the sensor at all, since touching the sensor can damage it permanently, hope my advice is of some help. When changing lens always switch off the camera first, since the static energy in the sensor will attract dust and other blemishes.

Thanks Serengetiman that is helpful.

I have posted this problem on the 'photography home' section of the forum and had several replies, also regarding usinbg software to remove the marks from the pactual images.

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FlyTraveler

What an itinerary! I am seriously jealous and looking forward to seeing the narration and the photos from this epic safari trip!

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Serengetiman

Hi Julian, you right with a photo software it is very easy to clean a image, but if you can start with a clean sensor is a real bonus. I write about the sensor cleaning just because you tell that you have clean the mirror trying to get rid of the marks on the image and was unsucefull, cheers.

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Too busy at home recently with other jobs, but I am eager to start this report, so as this is my first trip report I am just going to attempt to post a few photos from the trip, as a taster, assuming my attempt at posting them works:

 

There are sunsets............. and then there are East African sunsets......... Ruaha

 

Ruaha%20Sunset_zpslxuybte6.jpg

Edited by Julian
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OK, that seemed to work so here's a few more, just as a taster, I'm intending to start editing the photos in the next few days , so should be starting to post the detailed report in about a weeks time - I hope.

 

Open wide.........

 

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Serengeti cheetah ( close to the Kenya border)

 

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Kogatende crossing

 

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Katavi elephants

 

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A Selous bush breakfast by a lake.

 

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Malachite kingfisher taken from a boat on the Rufiji river

 

 

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Rufiji river croc - taken at very close range ( less than ten feet, by drifting the boat up close)

 

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Midday in Ruaha

 

IMG_5876%202_zpsnltliv5m.jpg

Edited by Julian
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Tom Kellie

~ @@Julian

 

The lion portrait above is magnificent!

Tom K.

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Atravelynn

The hippo "kiss" is perfectly timed. Wonderful set of intro photos. Please do include the itinerary somewhere in your posts.

Edited by Atravelynn
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The hippo "kiss" is perfectly timed. Wonderful set of intro photos. Please do include the itinerary somewhere in your posts.

A fully detailed report , with itinery, and many more photos will follow - i have almost finished editing the photos from the first section - at Selous - a proportion of those will be uploaded to photobucket - tomorrow - then I will start the full trip report on Tuesday - I hope .

 

( Too many other things to do at home currently - as well as other things regarding the trip - ie posting reviews on Trip Advisor ( partly completed) , feeding back to ATR ( done) , etc.)

 

The trip report is coming ..........

Edited by Julian
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@@Julian

 

Great start to your trip report. ....really liking the first images.

I am going to have to do a comparison with my Serengeti by the Kenyan border cheetah and see if we spotted the same one.

 

This looks like a fantatsic trip. What a group of parks to visit!

Looking forward to reading more.

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@@Julian

 

Great start to your trip report. ....really liking the first images.

I am going to have to do a comparison with my Serengeti by the Kenyan border cheetah and see if we spotted the same one.

 

This looks like a fantatsic trip. What a group of parks to visit!

Looking forward to reading more.

We actually saw 4 different cheetahs - all males - two brothers who spend their time hunting on the plains right up at the border. Our guide said that sometimes they are over on the Kenyan side so they can't show them to guests.

The other two sitings were separate individual cheetahs in other locations - still obviously in the plains areas, but well into the serengeti side.

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OK - I am now (at last !) ready to begin posting the first few days of our trip report.

 

I have completed editing the Selous photos (that involved reducing them from 1600 to under 250 and posting them on to Photobucket - ready for downloading and also so that friends/family can see them).

 

All the photos will be posted 'as taken' that is to say all taken as jpegs and no photoshopping or altering in any way .

This means they will include some photos with marks on them due to the sensor on one camera getting marks on it. ( I have now had the sensors on both cameras professionally cleaned by Jessops, and will eventually get round to using some software to remove the marks from the photos we want to include in a photobook or to be enlarged and framed).

 

First of all the itinerary:

Tanzania Safari 2015 - Julian and Rachel

 

Itinerary:

 

Wed 23-Sep-15: 20.00: London Heathrow to Nairobi (06.30)- Kenya Airways: Boeing 787-800

Thu 24-Sep-15: 07.45: Nairobi to Dar es Salaam(09.10)– Kenya Airways: Embraer ERJ-190

 

Thur 24-Sep-15: Transfer by road (10 mins journey) to Dar es Salaam Domestic Airport

 

Thur 24-Sep-15: 10.30: Safari Airlink: Dar es Salaam to Selous Mtemere (11.10)

 

Thu 24-Sep-15 Selous : Selous Impala Camp

Fri 25-Sep-15 Selous : Selous Impala Camp

Sat 26-Sep-15 Selous : Selous Impala Camp

 

Sun 27-Sep15: 09.15: Coastal: Selous Mtemere to Ruaha Msembe (11.00)

 

Sun 27-Sep-15 Ruaha : Mwagusi Camp

Mon 28-Sep-15 Ruaha :Mwagusi Camp

Tue 29-Sep-15 Ruaha : Mwagusi Camp

Wed 30-Sep-15 Ruaha : Mwagusi Camp

 

Thu 01-Oct-15: 07.00: Safari Airlink: Ruaha Msembe to Katavi (09.10)

 

Thu 01-Oct-15 Katavi : Chada Camp

Fri 02-Oct-15 Katavi : Chada Camp

Sat 03-Oct-15 Katavi : Chada Camp

Sun 04-Oct-15 Katavi : Chada Camp

 

Mon 05-Oct-15 12.20: Tanganyika Flying Co: Katavi to Serengeti Kogatende (17.30)

 

Mon 05-Oct-15 Serengeti Mara : Serian Serengeti North

Tue 06-Oct-15 Serengeti Mara : Serian Serengeti North

Wed 07-Oct-15 Serengeti Mara : Serian Serengeti North

Thu 08-Oct-15 Serengeti Mara : Serian Serengeti North

 

Fri 09-Oct-15: 09.45: Coastal: Kogatende to Kilimanjaro (12.00)

 

Fri 09-Oct-15: 14.15: Kilimanjaro to Nairobi (15.15)- Kenya Airways: Aerospatiele/Alena ATR72

Fri 09-Oct-15: 23.25: Nairobi to London Heathrow (06.30)- Kenya Airways: Boeing 787-800

 

This 15-day tailor-made safari holiday was booked with Africa Travel Resource, excluding the international flights, which were booked with Expedia. The total cost (excluding the international flights) was just under £7500 per person.

 

The international return flight from Heathrow to Dar es Salaaam and return to Heathrow from Kilimamjaro cost £710 per person, making a total holiday cost cost of £8200 per person.

 

The ATR cost of the safari included the camps accommodation/meals/ game drives/laundry/ etc, the park/conservation/special camp fees, the six transfer fees, and all drinks were also included at Serian Serengeti and Katavi Chada. The only additional costs were drinks at Selous Impala and Mwagusi, and a night drive at Katavi Chada.

Edited by Julian
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@@Julian

What a great itnerary - and some excellent "taster" photos - meaning I am very much looking forward to more!

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THE TRIP REPORT:

 

 

Day 1: Wed 23rd Sept – London to Nairobi

 

The really big day has finally arrived – and yes we are very excited. It has been a very long wait. Our last safari was back in June 2009 to Botswana – six years ago. So how did we get to this point?

 

Back in September 2014 preparations began for this safari. Initially we were looking at heading back to Northern Tanzania, which we had visited before, but a long while ago – back in 2001, on a package holiday, and that was in the January/February period.

 

Part of the reason for wanting to go back to Northern Tanzania was to see it in the dry season, but mostly because another couple, great friends of ours who have never been on safari, were seriously wanting to come with us on a safari.

 

Having been out of touch a bit over the last few years regarding safaris and camps, when I started to delve into more searching I soon discovered something to provide me with the information I really needed – what are now the best countries, best locations, preferable camps, what will it cost, etc. Fortunately one name repeatedly cropped up on the searches - Africa Travel Resource – they only provide tailor-made safaris (no packages) but also have detailed pricing information, making it easy to estimate the total cost.

 

I spent a very long time over a period of a few months on their website. I cross referenced information on their site with other sources, including Trip Advisor. By November 2014 I had come up with two 12 day options in Tanzania – to put to our friends – both likely to cost a similar amount. The first being a combination of Tarangire, Lake Manyara, Ngorongoro Crater and Serengeti Mara. The second option was Selous Ruaha and Katavi.

 

Although our friends were very eager to come on safari with us they had to decline in the end as Steve had only very recently changed his job and committing to the very significant cost was just not sensible. We had already decided that if they did not come we would choose the Selous, Ruaha, Katavi option as that was all completely new for us.

 

Over December and the Christmas period we mulled it over in our minds and discussions regarding how nice it would be if we could just add the Serengeti Mara location at the end, partly because we had never seen a significant wildebeest crossing on past trips to the Masai Mara (work commitments had made it impossible to be on holiday in August to October) and partly to make the whole trip more interesting and longer. However I wasn’t sure if we would be able to get a flight from Katavi to Serengeti Kogatende.

 

In early January I contacted ATR and after a discussion of well over an hour with one of their most experienced staff, it appeared we could do the trip we wanted, for the length of time we wanted, staying at the specific camps we wanted, with all transfers by light aircraft, and all just about within our maximum possible budget.

 

Just one hour later we received a detailed itinerary from ATR, with all the daily costs of every element of the trip broken down – camp costs, transfer cpsts, park fees, etc. – and that was it- our safari to Selous, Ruaha, Katavi and Serengeti Mara was sorted !

 

As the months passed preparations were made. Early into 2015 I discovered Safaritak and many of my questions were soon answered by the experienced travellers on here. Concerns regarding whether we needed Yellow Fever jabs or not, how precise are the weight restrictions, security at camps, tetse flies, and camera equipment decisions were posted by me and comprehensively answered on here.

 

So it is now Wednesday 23rd September 2015, around 2.30 pm and we are at London Heathrow airport. Our flight does not depart until 8.00pm, but when we are going on a safari we always allow LOTS of time to get to the airport – you can never be there too early, but arriving late could ruin part of the holiday. We see our Kenya Airways 787-800 plane being prepared and are eager for the next few hours to pass. It still all seems a bit surreal.

 

IMG_5072_zps0ejetxyk.jpg

 

Eventually its time to board, then take-off, next the drinks, then the meals. The service is very slow on board and by the time our meals are finished and it quietens down on the plane it is well past midnight- which means it is actually now 2.00am East African time. We need to sleep.

 

Day 2: Thurs 24th Sept- Nairobi to Dar es Salaam, then on to the Selous

 

Just two hours later the lights are switched back on – its 4.15 am – and breakfast needs to be served before landing preparations commence. It seems as though no one has had more than an hour or so of sleep – but we don’t really care - we are now over Africa (although it still doesn’t feel like it), and soon we are landing at Nairobi airport.

 

The coffee for breakfast and the urgency to get off and through the transit system to our next flight makes us feel wide awake. There is only a 75minutes gap between landing and departure of our next flight to Dar es Salaam. No one asks to see if we have Yellow Fever certificates. We are eventually ushered through a priority security check as the plane is waiting with hardly anyone yet on board – and due to take off in 15 minutes. We walk across the tarmac to the plane, bright sunshine and the warmth hits us. We are told we can sit anywhere as the plane is only about one third full.

 

Ten minutes later and the plane is taking off. We are sitting on the left, as we are hoping to get a good view and photos of Kilimanjaro as we fly past, and my internet searches suggested we should sit on the left – which turned out to be incorrect. An almost inaudible announcement is made and the people on the right of the plane are all looking out. I realise that Kilimanjaro is about to come into view, but I can’t get out of my seat as the drinks trolley is blocking me in. I stand up just in time to see through the windows on the other side of the plane as Kilimanjaro comes into view. Its about 8.15am, the skies are completely clear, no clouds anywhere, bright blue sky. We are flying really close to the mountain and just a few hundred feet above the top – I can even see the snow on the top – Such a fantastic clear view of Kilimanjaro and its all over in under a minute and I could not even get one photo. Never mind, a good reason to do the route again in the future.

 

After landing we have to pass through the Tanzanian checks which surprisingly include the requirement to take all of your fingerprints and an iris scan (more advanced checks than in the UK!). After retrieving our luggage – safely arrived thankfully – we quickly repack so we have all we require in our hand luggage now. A rep is waiting to taxi us to the local airport – a ten minutes journey. When we get there, our hold luggage (one soft large Kipling bag each) is taken to be weighed, they have no interest in weighing our hand luggage. We have time for a nice cold cola before our Safari Airlink flight to the Selous. It still doesn’t quite feel real yet – we are in Africa, but not yet in the bush.

 

Soon we are led out to our waiting plane – its very small – and there are two other travellers as well. The pilot has to install each of the four of us individually and very carefully into the plane. Rachel is told to sit in the co-pilots seat, with myself and another guy in the two seats behind. His partner is in the back seat with some of the luggage. Its a very tight, cramped fit. The flight as about 45 minutes but with lots of cloud, wind and therefore turbulence so its like being on a fairground ride. We are both so tired by now that we keep drifting off to sleep momentarily before being jolted awake by the turbulence.

 

IMG_5079_zpssgyuwyed.jpg

 

The urban areas of the city soon give way to more bare landscapes and its not long before we are flying over a landscape which our minds recognise – the African bush landscape. A few minutes later and the vast network of the Rufiji river comes into view – it looks quite awesome.

 

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Before I realise it we have dropped much lower, I look for signs of wildlife and then I see a giraffe, within seconds we are coming in to land, as we touch-down and the brakes are applied the waiting safari vehicles come into view – and suddenly I get that rush of elation and emotion - we are now back in the African bush. – fantastic!

 

As we get out of the plane the atmosphere hits us – the heat , the smell of the bush, the great feeling of being back in Africa. Introductions are quickly exchanged with our guide who is called Gerard and another member of staff, and we climb into the landcruiser.

 

IMG_5001_zps9kyyr8oi.jpg

 

Gerard informs us he will be our guide all of the three days we are here and we are promptly heading off for camp – a 45 minute drive. The first wildlife we see on the way are impala, then giraffes and a few baboons, followed by more giraffes and impala.

 

The camp appears out of nowhere, discreetly tucked away and as we stop in what appears to be the courtyard for the camp. We are given flannels and drinks, and a very friendly welcome by other staff and the manager - Chania – a very young safari camp manager, as we are escorted up the raised decking to the lounge area.

 

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The camp office:

 

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The camp Manager - Chania Watts - (Dont recall any careers adviser at school ever advising me if you like wildlife, and do the right study, you could be the manger of a premier safari camp in the worlds largest game reserve at the age of 22)

 

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We are asked the usual questions regarding where we have come from, what stage we are at in our safari, sign some paperwork, etc. We are told we will be on our own in the vehicle with Gerard for all three days, told about the river cruises, fishing and walking safaris, timing of the game drives – normally 6.30am to around midday, then 4.00pm to sunset, breakfast will be out in the bush, lunch and dinner at individual tables. A brief talk about the rules and dos and don’ts. Then its time to head to our ‘tent’ for half an hour to freshen up before lunch.

 

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Seven foot bed - a good size:

 

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View from inside the tent:

 

IMG_5091_zpsjqon8ipt.jpg

Edited by Julian
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I haven't seen (or at least don't remember seeing) a tent elevated in quite that way before - looks like it works perfectly to give you a really nice view! Camp looks good as well.

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Alexander33

Really looking forward to this.

 

Thank you for describing all of the preparation and transit details. Very helpful!

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I haven't seen (or at least don't remember seeing) a tent elevated in quite that way before - looks like it works perfectly to give you a really nice view! Camp looks good as well.

I think that type of elevation is quite common. Other camps I have been to in the past with similar elevation of tents include Kirawira in the Grumeti area of the Serengeti and Camp Moremi in the Moremi reserve.

The reason they were elevated to the hight they are at in Selous Impala camp are because of the proximity to the Rufiji river, meaning hippos frequently wandered through the camp at night - i understand they have poor eyesight and if you have ever seen a disturbed hippo running in a panic it just flattens everything in its way.

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@@Julian

 

I really felt your mounting excitement reading the build up to your trip and on the journey itself. And then there you were, back in the bush!

 

I used ATR for my recent Tanzania trip and I was really impressed with their service.

 

Selous Impala Camp looks good.

Really looking forward to the rest of this trip report as Ruaha and Katavi are high on my to visit list.

 

Thanks for the further info re your cheetah sightings. The two brothers who hunt around the Kenyan border have to the two I saw as that is the area where we spotted them. Always good to have continuity of sightings!

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