Jump to content

Trip Report, Part 2 of 3 - Tanzania and Rwanda


shinson20c
 Share

Recommended Posts

Part 2 of 3- Rwanda and Tanzania, 2015/2016 Trip Report

(Part 1 contains the DRC Trip report which was posted separately.)

Travel Dates: Dec 30, 2015 through Jan 9th)

Tanzania Booking Agent: Planet Africa

Camps: Kimondo Mobile Camp, Namiri Plains and Sayari

*** Please note that this report covers our time in Rwanda and at Asilia’s Kimondo and Namiri Camps. I will post the report on Sayari separately.

***Tips and Observations are at the bottom of the page.

(con't from the DRC Report, posted separately) At the border we meet up again with Kevin, our driver from Inspired and head to the Lake Kivu Serena Hotel a short 10 minute drive away where Kevin has arranged for us to have lunch. The transition from the Congo to Rwanda was nothing short of an exercise in surrealism creating within minutes having us commuted from what can be only described as chaos and desperation to a state of calmness and tranquility.

As we make our way upstairs we are met by the maître d who seats us at a table overlooking the pool and Lake Kivu. The hotel is full of families celebrating the New Year. Sitting all around us are beautiful women who are exquisitely dressed with not a hair out of place. The men are causally dressed with perfectly starched cotton button downs. Children play and splash in the pool below us without a care in the world while their beautiful parents lounge nearby. On the beach a DJ calls the kids to game of relay and I hear sounds of raucous laughter. In the distance we can see the DRC. Our waiter stops by and asks in perfect English if we would to order drinks. As I write this report, I can’t help but quote Nikolai Gogol “Perfect nonsense goes on in the world. Sometimes there is no plausibility at all” His simple words perfectly describe the reality of the moment.

After lunch we head back to Kilgali on whats known as “East Africa’s best roads.” Along the way we play a game of “I SPY - Litter.” You see, no one litters, no one smokes in public, no one seems to break the speed limit or any other laws for that matter, in Rwanda. After an hour or so of a scoreless game I up the ante and add “potholes” to the mix. There were no winners that day in the I SPY game.

After about 3 hours we reach our hotel in Kigali, the Hôtel des Milles Collines (aka Hotel Rwanda) and say our goodbyes to Kevin. The hotel lobby is full of travelers and looks a bit like Union Station at rush hour. I make my way to front desk where I’m directed to a nearby table to wait and am offered a drink. Just as I start bracing myself for a very long wait I’m met by Vincent who quickly checks us in and whisks us up to our room overlooking the pool area. We vaguely get our belongings organized and then head out to make the most of the limited time we have in the city. I attempt to reconcile the horrors of 20 years ago with the country and its people today. I soon realize there’s no logic that will ever explain the events of past or the present. Rwanda is an amazing country and an intriguing study in human nature. As I walk back to the hotel enveloped in what seems like serenity I understand why this country is referred to as the “Little Switzerland of East Africa.”

The next morning we’re up at 4:00 am to catch our 6:00 Coastal flight to Tanzania where the next 12 days will be spent in Southern, Central and Northern Serengeti.

Our first stop is the Southern Serengeti where we will spend 2 nights at Asilia’s Kimondo Camp. Our guide, Godsand knows the area well and has been with Asilia for 6 years.

The camp is a bit quirky, but in a fun way. The staff is fun, warm and kind. The food was excellent and the tents are very comfortable and nicely appointed with flushing toilets and hot water bucket showers. Dining is communal and served at table overlooking a grassy plain where herds of wildebeest and zebra also feast.

Later that day we head out for our afternoon drive. In the weeks leading up our visit the area experienced torrential downpours of rain resulting in massive herds of wildebeest and emerald green plains stretching as far as the eye can see. We stop and take a moment to draw in the vibrant colors and the massive herds before our eyes. We watch the wildebeest snort, run, kick and challenge one another. It’s quite a sight. After a while we head toward an outcrop of granite kopjes where Godsand explains a “super pride” of 23 lions call home. As we drive up we spot 2 young lions lounging atop one of the kopjes with about 4-6 cubs nearby. We circle the kopjes to find another 5 lions, including the head female snoozing. She wakes up long enough to scan the horizon and acknowledge our presence and then goes back to her nap. The young male lions in this area are more aggressive and intimidating than other lions that I’ve observed. Godsend tells us they us they have no fear of vehicles and will often chase and bite the tires. With that in mind we keep a respectful distance and back away as the two young males come down from the rocks.

Over the next 2 days we start our morning drives at 6:00 am and come back to camp around 1:00, before heading out again around 4:00 in the afternoon. We watch one failed attempt at a kill by a single lioness and come across several kills after the fact where we watch the families gorge themselves on wildebeest before the hyena, vulture, and foxes move in for their share. The afternoons are spent watching the wildebeest and zebra that stroll past our tent or herds grazing on the plain that our camp overlooks.

On Day 3, we depart Kimondo Camp at 6:00 am to make our way to Dunia Camp where we will meet up with our guide from Asilia’s Namiri Plains Camp who will drive us the rest of the way to Namiri.

As we leave the lush greenery of the South we enter a landscape that is sparse, dusty and seemingly devoid of wildlife, and exit to the woodlands where we spot more lions, hundreds of birds and tons of tetsy flies. 3 hours into our journey, the landscape opens up to reveal the vast golden tall grass plains where herds of elephants graze against a background of massive kopjes that date back billions of years. It’s a stunning site to see.

We arrive at Dunia and are greeted by the warm smiles of the camp staff and our new guide, Patena. We’re told that if we drive straight through we can reach Namiri in about 3.5 hours. Off we go with the intent to only stop for “extraordinary” sights. Within 30 minutes we’re sitting on the side of the road watching a baboon troop play in the river. We agree once again to stay focused and only stop for “extraordinary” sights. 15 minutes later we’re once again sitting by the site roads to watch some hippos in a small pool. Ok - this time we’re really going to focused I say to Patena. A few minutes later we spot a serval cat and we all laugh and agree that everything in this part of the Serengeti is at some level extraordinary.

Namiri is located about 1.5 hours from the busy central Serengeti on a part of the Eastern Serengeti that is known for it’s big cat population. Prior to late 2014, the area was closed off from the public for 20 years and deemed an important habit for cheetah. Namiri is the only camp within a 70km radius. Because of its remote location few others venture into the area. You can drive for hours and not see another vehicle.

As we turned off the main road and started inching closer to the camp, I knew I had selected a special location but I had no inkling of just how special this place would prove to be.

The camp is comprised of 6 tents and overlook a marshy area that is often frequented by elephants, topi, gazelle, and of course cats. During our briefing we’re told the camp is often visited at night by a band of 5 male lions the staff have nicknamed the “5 Brothers” and that they had just visited a few days ago and caused some commotion. I only half believed the story but selfishly hoped for a visit during my stay. I’ve always wanted to hear the roar of lion but would be perfectly happy if I just got to hear a call or two.

Later that afternoon we go out on our first drive and within 20 minutes we spot the 5 Brothers who had gorged themselves on zebra earlier that day. We sit watching and laughing as one by one they attempt to reposition their bloated bodies only to give up and literally throw themselves on the ground in pure exhaustion. After watching this hilarious scene for a bit we head toward the nearby woodlands stopping along the way to watch a family of Bat-eared Foxes, and observe several different bird species, before returning to camp.

Back at camp we have drinks and appetizers around the fire pit with the other guests and reminisce about the day's events. That night there are 5 other guests and each is absolutely delightful.

The following morning we awake to the cheerful sound of the staff who delivers coffee and cookies to our tent, thereafter we’re off on our first morning game drive.

Not far from the camp we spot two male lions that Patena refers to as the “trouble makers.” He explains the lions have arrived on the scene about a month or so ago and have been mating with the lionesses from another pride, and the guides believe that a coup dé·tat is imminent. As we start to head east across the vast short grass plains we spot a female cheetah. We stop to observe but she’s a bit skittish so we sit quietly and watch from a distance until she calms. We slowly approach but are very careful not to frighten her or overstay our welcome. I manage to take a few photographs but the lighting is not right so for a change I just sit and enjoy the moment. As we continue east we come upon some large kopjes where Patena spots a flicker of movement. As we get closer we see a female lioness who has separated from the pride. She climbs down the kopje and comes closer stopping less than 2 ft from the jeep. She lingers for a moment and then as she starts walking away she begins to sniff the ground and makes a low rumble of a call for her mates. Nearby, there’s a herd of Gazelle in her path but they seem to understand that she poses no danger. She moves in closer (about 50 feet maybe) and takes a seat. One by one the Gazelle cross directly in front of her. Pausing briefly to acknowledge her before they calmly move on.

On our 2nd night, as we drift off to sleep we hear the distant call of lions. A few hours later my mom wakes me “Shannon, Shannon - I think there are lions near the tent.” Just as I start to tell her it’s ok I hear the grunts and they do sound quite close but I tell her not to worry and enjoy the experience. After about 45 minutes or so the grunts start to get louder and louder until they are no longer grunts but full blown roars. Now, I’m convinced the lions are not just nearby but right outside our tent. I can’t believe I’m hearing the roar of a lion - not a call but a ROAR! Within minutes the excitement turns to concern as I realize we have all the blinds up in the tent and, with each movement I send a large and erratic shadow across the tent. Random thoughts start to fill my head. I think of a house cat sitting at the window and swatting at a bug. I wonder if I move is this lion going to think I’m a bug? Do lions eat bugs? Has anyone ever been pulled from their tent by lion? Of course not, I tell myself.

Then, I realize that I have to go to bathroom.

We wait a bit longer realizing that we haven’t seen the flashlights of the guards; which is strange b/c they are always out securing the area. Over time it becomes clear that the lion or lions are not leaving and the guards are not coming. I grab the radio and call for help. Sa’id picks up and I say “Sa’id, there are lions outside of tent - do you know that?” He replies in a very calm voice that he’s aware and tells me not to worry. I reluctantly agree and disconnect.

The lion calls go on but now it seems we have a chorus of lions joining in. Some sound “nearby” and others sound very, very close - like right outside our tent. Still, there is no sign of the guards. As I lay deathly still, barely breathing, for what seems like hours, I wonder if the guards are lost or maybe they’ve been eaten. Who knows but one thing I know is that I have to pee. So, I grab the radio and call Sa’id again “Sa’id, I think the guards are at the wrong tent. I don’t see them anywhere and the lion is still here BUT NOW I CAN SEE HIM - He is right outside my tent and I’m scared! Also, I have to go to the bathroom. Do you think its ok if I move since the blinds are up?” The next thing I hear is a roar BUT not from the lions. Instead it’s Said who through his laughter says “yes, Ms. Shannon I think it’s safe for you to go to the bathroom. I promise the guards are nearby and you have nothing to worry about.” I disconnect and fly across the tent barely touching the floor until I reach the bathroom. I fly back to bed and look to see if the lion is still visible. He’s gone and soon thereafter the calls and roars die down I fall back asleep. The next morning we all share a good laugh over the night’s events and learn a bit more about what transpired. I’m told that initially it was 2 of the 5 brothers who visited the camp. The other 3 brothers joined later. The reason that we didn’t see flashlights is because sometimes they can call attention or create danger for the guards. I’m not sure that I understand that part but all is well that ends well.

We spent 7 amazing days at Namiri and observed some incredible animal behavior - thanks to our guide, Patena. We developed a genuine affection and respect for him. Each day we would head out at 6:00 and some days stay out all day. Our days were filled with adventure, laughter and magical experiences. We spent hours upon hours immersed in the “bush experience” where we learned not only about the large mammals but the entire ecosystem. We also spent a considerable amount of time talking about our different cultures - his Massai, politics, education and just about everything else. The quality of guiding and the depth of knowledge that Patena exhibited is unique and in my opinion, rare and a privilege to share.

We chose Namiri b/c of it’s remote and scenic location and resident game population, and we were not disappointed.

One afternoon as we’re driving out of camp we stopped to watch a Topi being chased by a Eland. Nearby there was a herd of Elephants. As we watched this strange scene between the Topi and Eland play out in front us, Patena noticed the matriarch of the herd was in some discomfort. She began to stretch her hind legs and then she would attempt to sit, only to quickly stand up. You could see movement in her stomach. She then played down only to stand up again. The motions were those of an elephant giving birth but it was clear that she was not pregnant. As her discomfort continued the rest of the herd came to her aid and surrounded her. She then called out in a low but strong rumble. The rest of the herd continued at her side with some of the younger ones calling out and flaying about. Clearly she was in distress. After a few minutes the top of ridge behind began to fill with Elephants from nearby herd coming to her aid. It was one of the most amazing and touching sights I’ve ever seen. The herd continued to surround and comfort her, while others kept coming over the ridge. This scene went on for about an hour or so and as quickly as it began, it stopped. She came out from the middle of the herd with the older elephants lined up at her side. They continued marching in step across the marsh toward us. Once they passed us the herd loosened up and they continued on their way across the plain.

During our time at Namiri we observed 6 cheetahs and considering the entire population is estimated to be 330 we felt very charmed. We watched herds of elephants with their babies including the one I describe above. We also spotted a wild cat, several families of Bat-eared Foxes, hyenas, waterbuck, topi, Eland and countless species of birds. In the afternoons we would watch the Elephants stroll by the camp and one afternoon we had cheetah visit. I’m not sure if I’m just charmed or if what I describe in this report are every day events.

Asilia exceeded my expectations in every single possible way - the camps the staff, the guides, the accommodations, the food, and most importantly the work they do in the communities they reside in. I seriously can’t imagine staying with another company after this trip.

Some Tips and Observations:

  • At the time of this writing Coastal Airlines is the only operator flying from Kigali to the Serengeti and they only have 1 flight per day that leaves at 6:00 AM. Book early as it fills up quickly.
  • The flight stops in Mwanza where you go through immigration. The process is simple and the day we were there it took about 30 minutes. The agents will ask you for a yellow fever card so make sure you have it available.
  • The Hôtel des Milles Collines was excellent - great service and good food all at very reasonable prices. The rooms are small but nicely appointed.

  • Kimondo Camp when in the South is located near a hunting reserve and because of this there are no Elephants anywhere near the camp. We booked Kimondo as filler camp as Namiri had no availability as such we therefore it was just fine for the 2 nights that we stayed.

  • Namiri - The winds can be very strong so bring warm clothing for the morning drives and lots of lotion and chap stick to stave off the effects of wind burn.

  • The quality of wildlife viewing and guiding at Namiri was SUPERB but some may have been disappointed by the number of sightings. We prefer quality over number so it wasn’t a problem for us.

  • The tents are spacious and well appointed with indoor and outdoor showers and hot water 24/7.
  • We opted for a private open air jeep and guide during our entire stay and looking back I think it was money well spent.

  • If you’re staying at all Asilia camps and opt for the private guide Asilia will arrange for the guide to travel between the camps with you. I was not aware of this option when I booked but when I go back I will take advantage of the offer.
  • Mary at Planet Africa was my agent and she did a spectacular job with this trip.
Edited by shinson20c
Link to comment
Share on other sites

This hint is especially helpful

  • Namiri - The winds can be very strong so bring warm clothing for the morning drives and lots of lotion and chap stick to stave off the effects of wind burn

How I wish I could pay I spy litter where I live and be unsuccessful.

 

What a night time ordeal. I was crossing my legs while reading about your wish for a loo. Sometimes a bed pan is not a bad idea.

 

6 cheetah and 5 lion bros that came calling is a good visit!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Looking forward to the rest of this report @@shinson20c.

Namiri sounds great.

5 Brothers what a treat.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well that'll teach you to sleep with the flaps up. :D

 

Meaning of course.... leave them up. How much you would have missed otherwise?

 

Sounds like you had a great time. Thanks very much for the brief report.

 

 

The quality of wildlife viewing and guiding at Namiri was SUPERB but some may have been disappointed by the number of sightings. We prefer quality over number so it wasn’t a problem for us.

 

May I ask about this intriguing comment? I get the "quality" thing as I am sure much of what you saw isn't "day to day events", but....

Number of sightings compared to.........? And numbers of what? Not eles and cheetahs it seems?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I was totally captivated by your tale of the lions outside the tent! Glad it all worked out and everyone had a laugh.

 

Haven't read any Gogol (or really any Russian lit at all), but will be on the lookout in the future.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

What a fantastic story about the lion around the tent, you are a great storyteller :D Thank you for sharing your trip report with us, very interesting and entertaining.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

What a fantastic story about the lion around the tent, you are a great storyteller :D Thank you for sharing your trip report with us, very interesting and entertaining.

Thank you, Cheetah.

 

Shannon

http://www.switz.pictures/

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I was totally captivated by your tale of the lions outside the tent! Glad it all worked out and everyone had a laugh.

 

Haven't read any Gogol (or really any Russian lit at all), but will be on the lookout in the future.

Thank you, Marks.

 

I'm glad you enjoyed the report. I just posted my pics from the trip at http://www.switz.pictures/ .

 

Shannon

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

Safaritalk uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By using Safaritalk you agree to our use of cookies. If you wish to refuse the setting of cookies you can change settings on your browser to clear and block cookies. However, by doing so, Safaritalk may not work properly and you may not be able to access all areas. If you are happy to accept cookies and haven't adjusted browser settings to refuse cookies, Safaritalk will issue cookies when you log on to our site. Please also take a moment to read the Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy: Terms of Use l Privacy Policy