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kilopascal

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In Eastern Serengeti, November 2020

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kilopascal

So many trip reports behind that I have lost count, and I’m not sure how far I will get with this one but I thought I would at least report on the process of getting in and out of Tanzania this past May. I have been fortunate to be in Tanzania in November 2020 and May 2021. This will be a combination of those two trips.

Last November there was little issue with getting there or back coming from the US. I did have a PCR test 5 days and 1 day before leaving. This is something that is easily done where I work and no cost so I am very fortunate in that regard. I flew with KLM. There was an announcement in the KLM gate area that anyone traveling to Africa needed to have their proof of testing ready, and it went on to say “for example anyone going to Kigali, Nairobi, etc.” However, there was no proof required for the flight to Kilimanjaro. There was a health form that had to be filled out.

May was a different story. The requirement was negative PCR within 72 hours of arrival. I was flying Qatar Airways this time which has a much longer layover in Doha than there is with KLM in Amsterdam, so this is a little bit of a problem. I was leaving on Wednesday, May 12.  So, I called the clinic where we get tested and they set me up for a test at 8 am Monday and 8 am Tuesday. The Monday test was back Tuesday at 4 pm. The Tuesday test was not back yet for my departure on the ‘puddle jumper’ to Dallas but it was posted prior to my departure for Doha. I did not have a printed copy so I just used the first test for this flight. As you line up for check in, the passport and PCR test are checked. One man was excused because he had a rapid test not a PCR. One woman had no test at all so no admittance. A check was repeated by the ticket agent. Also at the ticket counter you must present the Qatar Airways COVID-19 Test Passenger Consent Form. A bit hard to find on their website but I did have this ready. Many people did not and it slows the process up. If this link doesn’t work you can message me and I can tell you how to get there on the Qatar Airways website. Print off a couple of them, you will need another one for return.

https://www.qatarairways.com/content/dam/documents/QR-consent-form-PCR.pdf

 At the gate, an announcement was made that we needed to be prepared to show the PCR test but no one that I saw was asked for this.

Fantastic and shorter than usual flight thanks to some favorable winds. I spent an 8 hour layover in the Oryx Hotel in the Doha Airport. A bit pricey but worth it after 14 hours on a plane. I emailed my most recent COVID test to the hotel desk and they printed it for me.

At the gate, I could hear one manin charge of Qatar agents talking about the PCR test needing to be within 72 hours of arrival, but the PCR tests were not checked at the gate.

Tanzania requires that you submit a health form online within 24 hours prior to arrival. I did this in the Doha airport.

https://afyamsafiri.moh.go.tz/#/home

After completing the form, you receive a Unique Health Code (UHC) to present upon arrival.  This UHC was sent to me fairly quickly via email. I was not required to present the number. I think it gets linked to your passport.

Flight from Doha to Kilimanjaro uneventful. It was a night flight scheduled to arrive at 7:15 am but we were almost an hour early.  As always, when you deplane and are on the tarmac here, you need to show your boarding pass from the flight. This trips up many people who I then passed and was first in line going into the building after being asked to sanitize my hands.  Everyone at the airport is now wearing a mask.  Last November, no one there wearing a mask. We were escorted into a room and seated in (sort of) the order of arrival. Then you get taken to a desk where they ask for your passport and PCR test. Then you go to desk number 2 to get a ‘pink slip’ for your Covid rapid test. Your name is placed in a book and they ask if you have a local phone number and seem very relieved when you say yes. I just gave them my guide’s number. They hand you the pink slip and you go to desk number 3 to pay $25 cash for the rapid test. All passengers are tested. Then 4 people at a time are taken to the next station for rapid testing. You go into a little room one-by-one where there is a very brief swab of each nostril.  Then onto immigration area where you will fill in the entry form. For the entry form you will need a local address. I always use the first place I am staying and the guide’s phone number. You will also need your flight number. Then up to the immigration desk. I had an Evisa from last November that was still good. All of this probably took 25-30 minutes, but keep in mind I was first in line.

Baggage was unloaded already. I collected mine and exited. I did not see George. We were early and I was first so I was not surprised.  I waited about 20 minutes and then a very kind woman said let me call him for you. He was, in fact, sitting in the parking lot but had been told by the gatekeeper that the flight had not arrived. In the time I spent waiting for him, no one else had yet exited the airport, so who knows how long this all takes if you are last off. I’m hoping it will get a bit streamlined once they have more visitors. I would guess that the plane was about one-third capacity.

We headed for Ndutu where I would spend 7 nights, then 2 nights in the center, purely because I needed to go get a Covid test. So we will skip forward to that process.

For the US, you will need a negative PCR test no more than 3 days prior to departure. I was leaving on Monday, the 24th.  You need to register for a testing site online. Somehow I had it in my head that you could only do this 4 days prior which is not correct. I think you can do it up to 2 weeks before. So, unfortunately I was trying to do this with not the most reliable internet at Ndutu Safari Lodge.

https://pimacovid.moh.go.tz/#/booking

If you are having the test done in the Serengeti, when you fill out the form you will select Mara region. Then it asks you for the clinic and there is only 1 option (some hospital). No Seronera or Serengeti listed. So I was told by the manager of Ndutu Lodge, Stephen, to just select that. After completing the form it would not let me submit. I tried a second time. Still not successful and it says I’m not recognized (you enter your passport). Stephen tries in his office then says to leave it with him.  He makes several calls, and finally makes it happen but by using a different date for collection (the day before).  He tells me not to worry about this, that filling this out is primarily to get a number so that I can pay.  I have paid George money so that he can pay using his phone and Mpesa. $100 for the test.  There is also a fee for collection which I think was paid at the collection site.  There is the option to complete this form and pay at a bank, but I knew all banks would be closed the Friday I arrived for Eid al-Fitr. You will be emailed a confirmation number so that you can pay. This didn’t happen. Stephen called the next day and finally I received this. When George and I went for a game drive that day, he headed close to the border with the Serengeti where he would have cell service and paid. Done! A lot of the tour companies will help you take care of this or set it up for you.  It was a bit my fault for not having done this earlier and I am very grateful to the manager at Ndutu Safari Lodge.

We left Ndutu about 6:30 Friday morning. Stephen had told us to be at the testing site shortly after 8 because you want your test to get flown out on the morning flight. We drove to the Seronera airstrip but the collection site is now at the small village near there. There was a tent set up in a waiting area with about 30 chairs. No one in them. A couple of men and one woman were standing over near another tent with computers having a lively discussion and told us to have a seat. (George, my guide, was with me.) After about 10 minutes the men go over and put on their white coats and things get started. George shows them the receipt.  All my information is put in the computer. White coat man number 2 puts on sterile gloves and I go into a small enclosure where he does a pharyngeal swab. In the meantime, George has wandered off. They ask to speak to him so I go looking. He comes back from the little local store with a couple of boxes of biscuits. The white coats get excited and tell him thank you. He hands them to me along with the keys to the car which is my clue to leave.  They say to him, “How can you leave us in the desert with nothing”? He comes back to the car laughing and tells me what they have said. George says ”I left them 5000 shillings”.

They told me results would be emailed to me on Sunday. I had George make sure my email was correct. The results came on Sunday (the 23rd).  The date on the certificate is Sunday, May 23rd.  There is no reference to the time or date the test was collected. We were back in Arusha and I had the hotel print a copy but you can use the digital copy at the airport.

The exit process at the airport is now prolonged. As you enter you show your passport, itinerary, and the PCR test. Bags are scanned as you enter. Then I had to wait about 15 minutes for Qatar Airways to open. You proceed to a small desk before getting in queue for the ticket counter. You present your passport, PCR test, and one of the Qatar Airways PCR consent forms that I previously mentioned with new dates and test results on it.  Again, many people didn’t have this and have to fill it out there, so the line really backs up a bit. After the ticket counter you fill out the departure form at some tables and proceed through immigration.

Arrived in Dallas. Through immigration quickly and there was no request for PCR test certificate.

End of procedures! Hopefully the more fun part of this trip report will get started soon.

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gatoratlarge

Super helpful---I hope some of this protocol will be relaxed before I travel to Tanzania in late October...were you vaccinated on the May 21 trip?

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kilopascal

Hi @gatoratlargeYes I was.

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Caracal

Wow @kilopascalwhat a great TR opener!

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  • 3 weeks later...

Ok.  Finally back. The November trip was November 24-Dec 5, planned the year previously to go during low season. I have seen the wildebeest crossings several times and the last time was so chaotic that I swore off. Of course this year would have been much different but too late to try and coordinate work around an earlier departure. Arrived in the evening and an overnight at the African Tulip Hotel in Arusha which is absolute lovely. Very few guests.

 

Room at the African Tulip Hotel

 

Deck outside my room on the second floor

 

We were only going to Karatu the next day so we didn’t start until about 9. There were no planned stops at any market this year, just straight there. Overnight at Ngorongoro Farmhouse, then on to Mara the next day. Sunny today but that would not hold and it had been raining for several days before. The pictures are just random sightings. I gave up even attempting a journal about 8 years ago since I've never made it past day 2.

 

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 Welcoming committee on the road just before Naabi gate.

 

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On arrival in the Mara it felt a little ‘empty’, but of course that is never really true. It was empty of cars. We never saw more than 1 car a day for the 4 days we were there. Wildebeest had definitely moved on which was not unexpected and in fact their move  south was well ahead of schedule. More Cape buffalo than I have seen before in the Mara. Lots of baby topi.

 

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One thing missing for me this year was leopard. I have never failed to see at least one leopard in the Mara region, but not this time. We spent a couple of days driving to the kopjes near Sayari camp looking. There were a lot of baboon here. Some barking alarm calls but nothing. The two other drivers, both from Lemala that we would occasionally run in to had not seen any either.

 

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The bridge to Lamai had washed out in the spring and had not been repaired when George was here in August.  We drove down to it the first day we were here but the water was rushing over it and deemed unpassable, given that you couldn’t see if or what repair was done. On the day before departure, as we were passing the turn to the bridge George just drove past. We had checked it every day and the water was still too high as it rained each night, sometimes quite hard. I asked George to turn back and drive down to the bridge so I could get a picture. And to our surprise, there is the bridge!! So the very end of it, on the Lamai side, had been completely washed away and was repaired with some big rocks. I said what do you think and George said let’s go. Great!! “There are a couple of crocs in there just waiting for us if we get stuck there.” “no worries, says George.  Sadly the picture of this repair is nowhere to be found. Maybe I got so excited that we could go across that I forgot to take one.

 

So off we went. It was beautiful. A pair of lions spotted on the opposite side of a stream and it took a bit of effort to get close as there were some very wet areas. There were really no identifiable roads left so it was like off roading in Ndutu. And no one but us. A small herd of elephants, then more lions. We spent most of the day here. I don't remember the total lion count during our 4 days in the north, but we saw some every day.

 

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We stayed at Mara Mara Tented Lodge, one of Tanganyika Wilderness Camp properties. Not a lot of options this time of year, and especially not this year since none of the mobile camps had set up, although they have usually closed by this time. Lemala was open and probably an Asilia camp.  Mara Mara was very nice with excellent service and food, although I think a little overpriced.

 

We moved on to the central/eastern Serengeti on Nov. 30.  The first day out George proclaimed that our goal was 20 lions, 6 cheetah, and one leopard. So, stay tuned to see if we meet our goal.

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Oops.  I see that the picture of the African Tulip Hotel are missing and I inadvertently put a video of elephants that instead of a picture, so I will try again.

 

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How lucky to have been able to visit twice @kilopascal. I'm pretty sure that room in the African Tulip is the same one we stayed in the last time we were in Arusha. They told us we were being upgraded when we arrived at night, and I didn't really see a big difference from the other room we'd had before that trip. But the next morning I woke up before my wife and opened the balcony door and realized why it was an upgrade. Looking forward to more... 

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kilopascal

Hi @Zubbie15I suspect you are right.When I stayed there is November they said we have upgraded you and I had this room with the outside area. In May I had an identical room but no patio. This little hotel does have amazing WiFi in all the rooms. Very fast. 

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madaboutcheetah

@kilopascal- Looks like a change in format ...... In April, when we got our PCR results after the Seronera testing...... they had a counter in the DAR airport where before checking in to the flight out, one had to get the test results authenticated by a PCR test help desk who had all the results on their computer.  How long was the drive to Sero from Ndutu?  It was quite a trek from Namiri in the Eastern Serengeti ..... but, i guess these are the times we live in!! 

 

How lucky with the Caracal - look forward to more!

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