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Trip report


olddude
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I am posting on Fodors and here as both of these boards helped to formulate our decisions.

Trip report part 1

 

The preparations;

The St.Louis Zoo (our Hometown) offers trips and programs visiting East Africa, but timing, election violence and various other events resulted in cancellations. Having travelled with groups in the past and neither of us in the best of condition we decided that this trip should be at our own pace. The decision to spend the extra for a private tour with a tour director to smooth the wrinkles was an easy choice.

After months of reading reports on Fodors and TA, I felt I was ready to jump in. Off to Africa and fulfill a dream that my wife and I have shared for years of visiting the nature reserves of Kenya and Tanzania and seeing the animals that were standard fare on Discovery, Animal planet and numerous other TV shows and documentaries. We solicited similar itineraries to several companies and solicited advice on Fodors. After reading LyndaS trip reports and reading her descriptions of Daniel at DKGrand we also sent him a request for quote and while not the lowest, he offered us suggestions that made sense to us. Lynda was kind enough to share with us a DVD that inspired us further to use Daniel. While the itinerary changed, even at the last minute, we choose his company and his partner in Tanzania, Warrior Trails.

Next came the hard part, (for me at least) the leap of faith to wire transfer that much money to someone that I had not yet met. After securing our flights (AA ff), I sent the deposit via bank transfer and we started shopping Cabellas and Bass pro shops for Khaki clothing. Of course I could not travel with only one camera so my trusty Nikon D40 found a mate in my bag as well as a 70-200VR and a 70-300 VR zoom and a Cannon FS 200 for videos. I even took a class in F-stops and the like, but found that I liked the auto setting better, there just was not time at an animal sighting to try to adjust the settings.

This was September and our trip was not until May….

Well, we all know about the ash clouds and the cancellations and then the impending cabin attendant strike, then the floods at Samburu! By mid April my nerves were about shot. I started exploring alternative routes to travel and had my standby list of airlines and their routes and phone numbers. We were going on Safari no matter what!

More to follow.

 

Trip report part 2

Well the day finally came. We had packed, weighed, repacked with the items we forgot, checked the packing list and reweighed. The carry-ons were our lifesavers I am still amazed at the volume you can stuff into a backpack. The key flight for our trip was the ORD to LHR AA86 that had been cancelled the evening before, a quick check before we headed to STL showed it was still scheduled for this evening.

I will skip the flights as you have all been there before, I will say that noise-cancelling headsets are one item I will not travel without.

We were met at NBO by Daniel and his intern Judy and driver Ben. Getting the visas at the airport was no problem, except I had to replace one of my $20s (it had a crease!). Culture shock! It took a while to get used to riding on the other side of the street. We were the first to use DKGrand’s new truck as they had just picked it up from the dealership and it still had plastic covers on the seats.

The Norfolk Hotel was our home base for the next two days and I was impressed by the stateliness and this older but well maintained property. The staff were always smiling and very attentive to our needs.

May 19.

Breakfast, wow what a buffet, (you can tell by my picture that I do like to eat). More culture shock! People were actually walking, lots of them, something that I do not see very often in the US. Well after a leisurely breakfast we prepared our day-bag and my camera bag for our first game drive to Lake Nakuru NP. My wife has Fibromyalgia and it was important that we always had her medications with us at all times, thus the day-pack.

The next culture shock, at the gate to Nakuru my wife decided that it was time to try the local facilities. The look on her face when she exited the long-drop facility was priceless! Well it was time to see the animals, and see we did. The lake had received a lot of rain recently and was just receding into its normal banks. The grasses were green and high and the pot holes were holding water still. White and Black rhino, Hyena, Cape buffalo, Giraffe, Impalas, Zebra, greater and lesser flamingo, lots of monkeys, Thompsons gazelle. We stopped at Lions Hill Lodge for lunch and I could see that my waistline was in for battle.

A quick note, while I have seen some discussions about the number of people in a vehicle, I was amazed to see several minivans with 8-9 people stuffed into each. One such vehicle had 4 people across in the front seat.

The short game drive back to the park entrance was interrupted as we had to slow for herds of Zebra on the roadway. My first day and I had already shot almost half of a card on each camera! I used two Nikon D40s, one with the standard 18-55 lens for wide shots and the other with a 70-300VR for most of my shots. I found the VR lens was excellent for hand held shots for those of us over 60.

Back at the Norfolk we relaxed and enjoyed a nice dinner at the hotel restaurant Tatu. The end of our first full day in Africa, the plane rides almost forgotten. The next day and another fantastic breakfast buffet (A pattern is developing here). The city tour was interesting and I could see and hear the pride in the guide Ben’s words describing his city. The giraffe center was a hit with us and the Sheldrick elephant orphanage were the highlights of the day. Both of us were covered with red clay from the baby ele bumps. The Karen Blixen Museum followed by a late lunch at the Carnivore restaurant completed our day. Back to the Norfolk to rest and pack for tomorrow’s trip to Tsavo West and Finch Hatton’s for our first night under canvas.

 

 

Trip report part 3

May 21

After another wonderful breakfast, we received a briefing from Daniel Kikemu, our soon to be best friend and owner of DK Grand Safaris. He explained what to expect and the results of the last minute changes to our itinerary (we had originally planned on Larsen’s in Samburu next, but that was not to be). Good excuse to return to Africa when Larsen’s is rebuilt!

Road trip; a drive to Tsavo West with a brief stop at the outskirts of Nairobi to show us the Beauty School that he is starting for children from his village. It was very nice and my wife and I were impressed at the attentiveness and politeness of the students.

We finally arrived in Tsavo West and after a short game drive we arrived at Finch Hatton to fresh warm towels and a glass of fruit juice. I think I could get used to this!

After the formalities we followed out porters to our tent, WOW! This is how we had envisioned Africa under canvas, only better! Hippos grunting in the pool, crocks lying almost motionless in the stream, Black faced monkeys playing in the tree next to the deck. Beautiful hardwood floored platform with a stone bath attached, the adjectives cannot get out of our mouths as we try to take it all in. Our only regret is that we had not booked this for longer. Lunch by the big Hippo pool followed by a nice nap and it was time for Dinner, The wait staff are in “Out of Africa” style costumes that, while sounding campy here, really helped to set the mood for an elegant dinner. The food was fantastic and I was already trying to figure how to punch another hole in my belt without tools.

After another wonderful breakfast we set off for a game drive and onward to Amboseli. The roads were in what I call “rough shape” after the rains and while the crews were out working on them, they had not yet made much progress. The Shetani lava flow was an impressive sight as was the parade of animals sighted; Elephants, Giraffe, Impalas, Gazelles, Zebras, and many more. We made the obligatory stop at the gate for an escort and the look on my wife’s’ face when two armed rangers climbed into our vehicle was again in the priceless category.

The road to Amboseli from Tsavo was again a bit rough as the road crews were again at work. Amboseli Serena was to be our home for the next two nights as we were again welcomed with fresh towels and juice (No, I was told, do not expect my wife to greet me at the door with towels and juice!). What a sight with the monkeys running up and down the walkways and a very attentive staff and Killi in the background! The buffets were delicious, plentiful and varied and I have now grown a fondness for creamed soups. (note to self, bring a leather punch next time).

Game drives included sighting of Elephants, Oryx, Ostrich, Hippo, Goliath Heron, Buffalo, Crested Crane but no predators.

May 24

After another breakfast, we left Amboseli airstrip for the flight to Masai Mara and Bateleur.

 

I am including a link to some of my pictures, this is not all and not in any order yet. Enjoy,

Ron

http://old-dude.smugmug.com/photos/swfpopu...;AlbumKey=zzFby

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Thanks, Old Dude. I am following your report both places. If I miss an installment somewhere I will surely find it again.

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Trip report continued

I will give Safarilink a “thumbs up” for the little bottles of water on the seatbacks in their planes. I give them a “thumbs down” for headroom for a large guy. I bumped my head getting in and out of the plane. But it was worth it! The Masai Mara awaited us and the greeting upon landing by the Bateleur staff was an impressive spread even at the airstrip. The drive from the airstrip to the camp included sightings of Elephant, Impalas, Baboons and Warthogs.

I think I would have to do a “coin-toss” to determine which was better, Bateleur or Finch Hatton, double WOW. The greeting committee was out with refreshing towels and fruit juice again. We had tent #19, which was the closest to the dining and vehicle pickup area, convenient but we could hear the kitchen staff before meal time. A late lunch, including a creamed soup, and relax until time for our afternoon game drive.

The &beyond game drive vehicles are impressive with a raised area with three rows of seats and a short ladder to climb aboard. These vehicles give you an excellent viewing platform and I found photographing from them easy. Game spotted on this evening included Giraffe, Impala, Warthogs, Lion, Hyena, Zebra, Thompsons Gazelle, Topi, Cape Buffalo, Hammerkop. The roads were again rough leading from the escarpment to the Mara and the roads in the Mara still had standing water in some spots, testing the skills of our driver.

Pre-dinner drinks by the fireplace and exchanging stories with the two other couples that were there preceded another belt-stretching dinner. The firepot of coals by your table is a nice touch to ward off the evening chill. Returning to our tent with the Askari escort we found the bed turned down and hot water bottles warming the bed for us.

An early wake-up with fresh coffee for me and tea for my wife with cookies (yeah, I had a few) was a nice start to the day. I started the morning with a sunrise picture along the escarpment road, and we were off into the Mara again. The animals sighted on this game drive included again; Giraffe, Impala, Warthogs, Lion, Hyena, Zebra, Thompsons Gazelle, Topi, Cape Buffalo, Hammerkop. And also: Eland, Lions trying a flanking maneuver on some Warthogs, Baboons, Hippo, Guineafowl, and Weaverbirds. A “honeymooning” Impala and his harem was a nice distraction for a while as we drove back to Bateleur for a late breakfast. I almost forgot a (I am told) rare sighting of a Spitting Cobra crossing the road near the escarpment.

I know, eating again, but it was so good! There was some kind of a cereal with honey and yogurt in a parfait cup that was served only here that started breakfast and only got better! After I waddled back to our tent we relaxed on the tent porch/deck that overlooked the Mara, what a view! The Afternoon game drive was a personal favorite of mine as we spotted a Black Rhino out in the open! This was repeated the next day and the last evening (day 9 May 26) we ended up on a long afternoon game drive that ended at a clearing beside the banks of the Mara river.

(For those of you that are going to stay at Bateleur and like surprises, do not read this next paragraph)

The skies were dark and we could just make out some light through the bushes as we rounded the opening in the clearing. What a magical sight! Lanterns were lit and hung to create a very romantic scene. A firepit was burning in the middle and chairs were placed around it in a semicircle, drinks were being served and we could see linen tablecloths on tables scattered around the area. The Chef from the camp was preparing the meal as we relaxed by the fire. Soon, out of the darkness you could hear a low chant, punctuated with an occasional yell as a group of Masai Warriors came dancing into the clearing. The magical chants and dancing of the warriors was a highlight of a perfect African bush evening. But wait it was not over yet, we had not yet eaten. I can only say that this was one of the best dinners yet, maybe the setting, under the open African skies, the company of my wife of almost 45 years, the hippos serenading us, whatever it was, it was GREAT.

The next morning we flew from the Mara to Nairobi and then on the Kilimanjaro airport to begin the Tanzania portion of our safari.

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Thanks Olddude, great trip report. We're headed to Kenya next week and will be staying at the Norfolk, Amboselli Serena and at Kitchwa Tembo so this was a great preview! As suggested, I didn't read the last paragraph.

 

Best regards,

 

PT123

 

PS - I hope we're lucky enough to see a rhino in the Mara - that would absolutely make the trip.

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Your enthusiasm really shines through in this. You might still have the towel and juice re-enactment at home when the longing to return to Africa sets in.

 

I'm glad Finch Hattens lived up to your expectations and then some, since it was a replacement for your Samburu stop. It is amazing how Africa never disappoints.

 

Nice job on the spitting cobra and the other sightings. Will be checking the photos soon.

 

Thanks for sharing your successful trip.

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What a trip, you covered quite some ground in Kenya! Beautiful pictures. Another example that there is much more than the Masai Mara in Kenya ... but the Masai Mara/Kichwa Tembo/Bateleur never disappoint's.

 

Looking forward to your Tanzania section.

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That's some real determination man and it sounds like it paid off judging by your trip report. Quite a few people (including myself - more than once!) have been effected by the volcanic ash cloud and the airline strikes – but when we all get there in the end, it makes all the difference! :)

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Trip report, Tanzania segment

May 27

We left Daniel Kekemu at Wilson after he confirmed our flight to Kilimanjaro airport and made a call to his counterpart in Tanzania. Kilimanjaro airport is a small and pretty airport that reminded me of an airport in Hawaii. After showing our Yellow health cards to a very disinterested individual at the health table we filled out the forms and paid for our visas. An enterprising young porter had already loaded our bags onto a dolly and we were out of the airport (after an appropriate tip). Clamian Kitesho and his Warrior Trails vehicle and his driver Jackson were waiting for us. The itinerary had changed due to some logistics and we were soon on our way to the Lake Manyara Serena Lodge. After Bateleur this was a bit more ordinary, but nice. The views of the park and lake were very good from our room and although cold, the pool was refreshing before dinner. While the rooms may be smaller and less opulent, the food at the Serena lodges was good and varied. Yes, I did have to slip the belt loose a little.

The next morning we enjoyed an early breakfast, checked out and headed for Lake Manyara park. We were greeted by a troop of Baboons and later by a herd of about 25-30 elephants. After seeing the eles from a short distance from the road our driver Jackson said he knew where the eles would cross the road and we left the sighting and stopped further down the road to wait. It was not long before the large Matriarch came from out of the trees and crossed within a few feet of our vehicle. What a thrill to watch the parade of mothers and babies cross leisurely in front and all around us. The park is a beautiful place and although we did not see and lions, we saw Monkeys, Impala, Safari Ants, Giraffe, Cape Buffalo, Warthogs, and several bird species that I am still trying to identify. After stopping for lunch, we drove to the Ngorongoro Serena to relax before tomorrow’s decent. The entertainment around the pool bar was very good and we admit to humming “Hakuna Matata” for days after. Another dinner and some outstanding desserts and we retired to our room to rest for tomorrow’s decent.

May 29

After a short stop to register and we were off down the incredible switchback road into the crater. Just before we reached the bottom and leveled out, we spotted a couple of Warthogs being flanked by a group of 4 Hyenas. The Hyena’s maneuvering failed as the Warthogs dashed off and then stopped as if to mock the Hyenas. The crater is an amazing place and we were astounded at the numbers of White-bearded Wildebeest and Zebras, it appeared as though a mini-migration was occurring before our eyes as we had to stop the vehicle and wait as the road was full of animals. Later we spotted a goup of vehicles crowded around a small pride of four lioness exhibiting “flat-cat behavior”. We joined the group for a short while as one of the lioness stretched and sauntered off between two of the vehicles and disappeared along the small lake shoreline. A short stop at the hippo pool for a rest break and stretching of sore leg muscles was a welcomed diversion. We continued our game drive in the crater spotting, Ostrich, Elephant with tusks that were almost down to the ground, more Hyena, Crowned Crane, Warthogs, Cape Buffalo, Kori Bustard, African Darter, Hippo, Egyptian Geese to name a few. Well all good things must come to a close is a quote that comes to mind as we ascend the crater to return to the Serena and a very late lunch.

Clamian’s uncle lives not far from the Serena Lodge in the Ngorongoro area and I was invited to visit his uncles Boma and see firsthand how the Masai live. We drove about an hour passing though an area with lush green grasses and many small herds of cattle and goats being attended in most cases by 8-10 year old boys. Clamian’s uncle is wealthy by Masai standards as he has three wives and about two hundred head of cattle. After introductions I was invited into one of the huts and invited to sit upon a stool about 10” tall (not an easy task for me, even before ten days of delicious foods). Clamian took the time to explain to me the structure of the hut and the way it was constructed of sticks, cow dung, ash, dirt and cow urine. It did not smell, as the only odor was that from the small fire pit used for cooking. The beds were cowhide and stretched over a wooden frame. As I exited (very carefully) I was immediately surrounded by several young boys that had never seen a white man before and they tried rubbing my finger as hard as they could to see if the white paint would come off. I took their pictures and they were giggling and laughing as I showed them their image on the screen of my camera. One of the wives even took one of the younger boys aside and changed his shirt so he could have his picture taken with the group. This is one of the highlight moments of the trip, seeing and interacting with these proud and self sufficient people living in harmony with nature as they have for decades. Sadly I had to leave as another dinner awaited me back at the lodge.

30 May

After another wonderful breakfast, we began our drive to the Serengeti, opting to pass on the Olduvai Gorge and on to another Serena lodge. The game drive into the Serengeti yielded our only sighting of a Leopard, Lions, Giraffe, Puff Adder, Impala, Weaver birds, Zebra, Wildebeest, Crowned Crane, and several small birds that I am still trying to identify. The Serena’s architecture with its two story rondavels is unique and blends well with the surrounding woodland. A spectacular view of the Serengeti was visible from the terrace of our room and afforded me a platform for some very interesting “sunset shots”. Another pants stretching dinner (I gave up on the belt!) and the entertainment was a group of very talented acrobatic dancers.

31 May

Well another breakfast, (what can I say?) and we were off into the Serengeti. Rounding a Kopje we spotted several lioness lying on top surveying the area for dinner. A slight movement at the base revealed the “lounge area” for the two males that shared this pride. Only one of them would keep his head up for his Photo op. Another Kopje further north with some shade on top revealed a mother and her cub, the cub was intently watching a small Red headed Agama on the rock below. We ventured North and West towards the Grumeti and found the tail end of the Migration. What a sight with the Zebra and Wildebeest herds intermingled going in every direction. The river crossing had not yet begun and the sounds of the bleeting Wildebeests was almost musical as the various males attempted to keep their respective harems together and fend off challenges. The Zebras standing with their heads over the back of their neighbor made for a sea of “dashed lines” going in every direction. Leaving the herds after a while we passed the Hippo pool and what a sight! I could not even begin to count the number of Hippo in that one pool, it appeared that you could walk from one side to the other on their backs and not get a foot wet (Not that anyone outside of a cartoon would!). Well there was only one animal on my list and I told Clamian and Jackson that I wanted to see a Cheetah today and after conferring with other drivers on the radio, we took off for the search. I had almost given up when Jackson pulled off and we were right next to a mother and her four cheetah cubs! What beautiful and majestic creatures they are, after a few moments the mother got up and walked off, stopping briefly in the tall grasses to let the cubs catch up. We lost sight after only a few yards until the cubs suddenly appeared one by one on a termite mound, watching intently as their mother disappeared again into the grasses. We quietly left them to hunt and moved on to finish the day with a final sighting of a very large male lion with a full mane and a battle scared nose lying by a small stream. He looked up at me and posed regally for his picture.

Our final dinner in the Serengeti and then we packed for tomorrows departure. Another breakfast and a short game drive to the airstrip we bid farewell to Clamian and Jackson and the Warrior Trails vehicle whose bruises I still have. A Regional Air flight from Serengeti to Arusha, a short layover and then off again to Kilimanjaro airport, cleared customs and immigration for Tanzania exit and a Safarilink hop to Wilson in Nairobi. We were met at Wilson by Daniel Kikemu, the DK Grand driver Ben and the intern Judy and escorted through the Nairobi traffic (June 1 is a holiday in Kenya) to the Panari Hotel for a much needed shower and our last dinner in Africa (this time). Having repacked our duffles we had almost nothing in our carry-on. Well it was time a short drive to the Nairobi airport, farewells and we were on our way home. A ton of pictures that will no doubt, trigger fond memories of our “trip of a lifetime” many years in the future. By the way I did manage to get some holes punched in my belt.

Respectfully

Ron and Lylas

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The account of your trip brought a lump to my throat. I remember our first visit to Kenya and we felt exactly the same as you regarding the friendly people, the superb food, the bruising from the vehicles (known as a Kenyan Massage!) and the smells, sights and sounds, particularly the sounds of the night. All those things are wonderful and that is before we even see an animal! I hope you go again. I will be going in September, on my own this time as other half is not well enough to risk such a trip anymore, but I had to go just one more time. Africa tugs at the heart strings it is magical.

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I finally saw the photos. Impressive opener with the sunset. Where were all the baboons? I'm going to venture a guess with Manyara and the same location of the closest ele faces.

 

The sparring young impala are outstanding and I love the face of the waterbuck. Your spitting cobra is fantastic, especially as it slithers away.

 

It's all here!

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Well, you certainly enjoyed the trip, and you really moved around for an olddude. Some very nice photos.

 

Definitely not a report for after lunch - I feel bloated just reading it. :rolleyes:

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  • 1 month later...

Old dude, you may find that travel to Africa is the fountain of youth!

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  • 3 months later...

I have a slide show of my Spring 2010 safari that I would like to share with the forum. It is a link on photodex and the details are:

 

This is a link to our slide show;

http://www.photodex.com/share/rchatmon/d74a9mg4

 

(You may need to load this small viewer program to view.

http://www.photodex.com/downloads/products/plugins/presenter )

 

 

The presenter plugin program is second from the bottom on the right hand column of programs.

Be sure to allow this plugin to run as some IE security software will try to block it. (you will see a notice banner at the top of the screen when this happens, just click allow)

 

Turn up your speakers and enjoy!!

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Do you not like people with Macs?

 

Eager to see your photos, but the program is for Windows! :-(

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No I do like MACs, but I use a Windows based machine.

I checked the FAQs at Photodex and this is their answer;

 

Do you have a Mac version of ProShow?

Unfortunately, there are no Mac versions of our software available at this time. While we do not officially support it, many customers have reported to us that ProShow runs very well on Intel based Macs using Boot Camp.

Good luck

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Well, I don´t use Windows but I think the users of Windows should be able to watch my photos, when I publish them.

 

Really, one should not need to download an application just to view pictures on the Internet.

Edited by Sverker
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This is more than just pictures, it is a slide show set to music with video clips interspersed.

Travel safe

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