Our biggest problem was just leaving New York’s JFK. Bad weather and a disabled plane shut down all but one runway. We were sitting on the plane in New York for 3 hours before takeoff. Fortunately we made it to London’s Heathrow with plenty of time to make our connection to Nairobi.
Actually, Carl doesn’t mention the almost comic problems we had in just leaving the house. It was a Sunday. Both of us were lounging around thinking that the other one was doing stuff to hasten our departure, but we were doing nothing. Then we had to rush around. Cat food went all over the kitchen. We left ½ hour later. It started to thunder as we loaded our duffel bags into the trunk. And the car was out of gas and we had to turn around to get some. We did get to JFK with plenty of time. We thought the bad karma had left us. At least as we waited on the runway they let us watch movies.
Nairobi was a little confusing, but not bad. Our first experience was with the passport lanes, it really doesn’t matter what the lanes say you can go into any line. The guys from Liberty were there to take us to the Norfolk Hotel. Our flight to Masai Mara was not until the next morning. It was late evening and Nairobi was quiet, there was no traffic on the roads. We arrived at the hotel just after 10 PM, but they called the kitchen and had them stay open for us.
The Norfolk Hotel is the old fashioned Britsh era style hotel in Nairobi. It was very nice and quaint and the people were very helpful and kind—a forecast of how sweet the East Africans would be. Our first night’s dinner was very good. I had lobster.
We had a 10 AM flight to Masai Mara from Wilson airport. There was more traffic on the road than the night before, but still not bad. We flew on Safarilink on a larger plane than I imagined; it had 4 seats in each row. On the flight I saw a giraffe not too far from Nairobi and some elephants closer to the Mara. Our guide from Kichwa Tembo met us at the airstrip with coffee and biscuits. Stephen was from the Luo tribe, where Barack Obama’s African family comes from, and John was a Maasai. They both seemed to like Obama—as did many Africans we encountered. We had an open Land Rover to drive in. On the way to the lodge we saw zebra, giraffe, a vulture, We were impressed already and this was just on the short drive to the camp. At camp, we heard John give a short talk about the Maasai culture, while the camp warthogs roamed around us, and then we met Stephen for our first game drive.
Stephen was tall and older. He was wise, smart, kind and I think he was the most senior guide at Kichwa Tempo who many of the older ones looked up to. How we lucked out by getting Stephen assigned to us, I don’t know but it was a lucky stroke.
A few words about our first tented camp. Carl picked a wonderful place for our longest stay in safari. First, saying it’s a tent is pretty much a joke. They are quite luxurious with all the amenities of a Four Seasons. The community area is elegant and conducive to relaxing after a long day in a Land Rover on bumpy terrain. The food was mostly a buffet and it was very good—too good. I may have gained a lot of my 8 new pounds there. Each table was assigned a permanent server and ours was named Sammy—“you know the baseball player Sammy Sosa? That’s how to remember me.” As some people call me “Mr. Baseball” this was easy for me to remember. The front yard of the camp was graced with the very ungraceful warthogs who kept the lawn short. They also would drink from the pool which was a little disconcerting, especially since there was a mud hole near it where they would lull about. There is a beautifully designed infinity pool with a view of the savannah where we would often see giraffes, elephants and other animals.
We were riding with a single Japanese woman, Miskao, in the vehicle. There were three rows of seats so we had plenty of room. We hadn’t even left the camp yet when the engine died. Other people were leaving camp at the same time, at one point 4 trucks were behind us, but the backed up and went a different way. After maybe 15 minutes someone found the problem and the engine started. We were on our way.
It was hard communicating with Miskao—in fact I never caught the right pronunciation of her name. She spoke no English. But she was a seasoned safari person (this was her 15th) and a great animal spotter.
It was only a short drive to the Oloololu gate. Once inside the park, we saw animals everywhere. Cape buffalo with little birds on their backs, more zebra, impala and wildebeest. We saw elephants and 2 sleeping male lions. Various antelope: eland, hartebeest, topi and waterbuck. Also ostrich and mongoose. Then we went to a brush area. In the brush were a mother and baby Rhino. I think there are very few of these Black Rhino left, but here we saw them through the brush. We left them and saw more elephants, several mothers and babies. Towards the end of the day we saw the mother and baby Rhino as they came out of the brush. We saw that the sleeping lions had moved a little bit. The park closes at 6:30 PM (sunset), so we had to leave. For the next day we planned to take a box lunch and be out all day.
I think they said there are only 50 black rhinos in either the Mara or all of Africa. It was thrilling to see our first lions even if they were sleeping so soundly—what they do in the solid middle of the day.
After breakfast we drove down to the Mara River. We saw some crocs and some hippos, then Stephen heard something on the radio and drove off quickly. We weren’t sure what was going on, but all the vans were heading in the same direction. We found a large group of vehicles watching the wildebeest cross the river. It was just like we had always seen in National Geographic. We found a parking spot where we had a good view of the crossing. Stephen pointed out one of the crocs holding a wildebeest it had caught. Behind them, hippos were lined up looking at the commotion. 3 of the crocs had each gotten one of the wildebeest. Soon after we saw that, the rest of the wildebeest noticed them too and stopped crossing. Most of the herd that did cross walked away, while some stayed back, I guess looking for their family or friends.
It’s hard to do the migration crossing justice. It is an The number of wildebeests in Africa has grown to about 750,000 since the reserves were established, up from a pitiful number. There are thousands and thousands jumping in the river rapidly and swimming across the Mara river. The halt of the crossing was sudden. It almost seemed like there were wildebeests poised somewhere with walkie-talkies, “Stop, stop, the crocodiles are attacking.” We heard later that the crossing had been halted for at least three days because of the danger of the crocs. So we were very lucky. They are huge animals, 13-15-17 feet long. Their tops look not like a pocketbook but like the armor of gladiators.
We followed the river and saw more hippos.
Actually we were looking for a suitable and safe place to pee.
Two of the male hippos were fighting with their mouths, pushing each other, I guess they were vying for dominance. Away from the river we started looking for cheetah, but none were nearby. Stephen saw something by a termite mound. We drove over and found 2 young lions. He said they maybe about 2 years old, they weren’t small cubs. Their mother was nearby. Away from the lions we stopped and had lunch. Obviously we couldn’t get out and eat right there.
The hippo fight was fierce. They would jump up against each other and push their huge mouths into the others. It was fun to watch.
By this point we were near the Tanzania border which is closed (to humans at least). After lunch we found 3 lionesses sleeping by the side of the road. Not for the first time, we almost drove right past them. In the grass, they really are hard to see. We saw 2 hyenas, some ostrich, some other birds. None of us were bird people, so we only really noticed a few of the different birds. Then we headed back to camp.
Kichwa Tembo overlooks the plain. Back at camp, besides the resident warthogs, we could see zebra and giraffe walking around below. I asked Stephen when the lions might be active, so we decided to leave early the next day and pack breakfast.
We left camp just before sunrise, we saw the hot air balloons being inflated and stopped just outside of the gate to watch the sunrise. We saw a pair of lions, but they weren’t doing much. We went to the river crossing, the wildebeest walked towards the river, but then changed their minds and didn’t cross. We stopped for breakfast under a sausage tree. We saw a truck in the distance and went over to it. We saw a cheetah there with 2 cubs, these might be about 2 years too, they weren’t so little. The mother got on the termite mound and looked like she might hunt, but nothing was nearby. More vehicles were coming over so we left. Apparently there are rules about how many trucks can be around the animals at once and how long they can stay. We found a hyena den by the side of the road with 3 cubs there. We saw Grant’s gazelle here, and more of the grazing animals. Already I’ve stopped writing every animal we saw. We found the rhino again, they had gone maybe 10 km from where we saw them 2 days ago. More giraffe and baboons on the way out of the park.
I loved the gazelles and the impala. They are so graceful (I will use that word a lot). I also loved the baboons, how they would play. Young ones would jump on their moms for a ride. They would fight with each other in play. As sweet as they look, a large baboon can be pretty dangerous. Grown up hyenas are appropriately unattractive but the cubs are pretty cute.
Back at the camp for lunch. Some birds and an agama lizard on the way back into the park. We saw an old bull elephant, Stephen said he was maybe 60 years old. We found some sleeping lions, an older male with a black mane, a younger male and a female. They kept on sleeping so we drove on. We found 2 young lions. Stephen said they would be a brother and sister on their own for the first time. They looked like they were trying to hunt, but were too inexperienced to be successful. The topi were watching them closely, but never let the lions get anywhere near them. It started to rain and Stephen gave us rain ponchos. We left the lions as it started to get dark, but now it was raining harder. The track was very slippery and we got stuck in a mud puddle. After a while of switching gears and going back and forth, we were able to get out of it, but it was very slippery all the way back. All the animals stand still in the rain because they can’t smell the lions and have to be more careful.
I love thunderstorms and it started out as entertainment for All of us had visions of having to get out and push. I had only one pair of shoes.
My partner, Tony, decided that he wanted to do the balloon ride. I thought it might be fun, but I didn’t have a real strong desire to do this, it was rather expensive. Because the roads were still slippery, we had to get up at 4:45 am to be at the launch site in time. Fortunately, they had coffee there for us while they filled up the balloons and briefed us on the safety and operation of the balloon. It was a very smooth ride and we floated over many of the areas we had been driving around. We saw birds in the treetops, some giraffe ran from us, a lion surrounded by vehicles. We had driven through the different landscapes, but it was neat to see from above how it changes from forest to swamp to grassland. We didn’t get much higher than the treetops. It started to get windy, so we had to land quickly and bumped over a few termite mounds. A champagne breakfast was waiting for us not far from the landing site. Stephen drove there with my Dad and Miskao, they had breakfast and a short drive to meet us. They had seen a serval cat with kittens on their way in. I was a little sorry to have missed that, but the balloon ride was fun. We saw the hyena family again. We saw a large male cheetah walking around. By the river we saw the hippos and crocs.
Carl is being pretty kind about the balloon ride. It was very expensive and perhaps a waste of money. The loud noise of the balloon’s firing mechanism chased animals away. It was South African champagne but the breakfast was good.
Stephen said because of the rain, the wildebeest were confused about which way they were going and wouldn’t be crossing. We drove into the woods and Stephen told us to start looking for leopards in the trees. A little further, we saw one. We watched for a few minutes, another truck pulled up behind us, and then she disappeared into the brush. On the way out of the park we stopped at the gate. The rangers had rescued a baby buffalo and a baby eland and they were there at the gate for people to pet. Then back at the camp for lunch.
After lunch, Tony got a massage, Miskao went on a game drive with Stephen, and my Dad and I went on the escarpment hike. The escarpment hike was neat. It was nice to do something active, rather that ride around the rest to the day. It was a strenuous hike, we had a guide and an armed policeman with us the whole way. Our guide pointed out how different animals climb up the hill since the migratory animals are eating most of the grass below. Even hippos and giraffe climb up here, evidenced by their droppings. We saw dung beetles, and what was really creepy was the chalk colored hyena droppings. The hyenas grind up the bones with their jaws. Great views from the top of the escarpment over the Mara plain. We didn’t see too many animals, just zebra, impala, eland and baboons, besides the Maasai cows. Back down to camp to rest up a bit.
All I heard about the hike was the glories of different animals shit. I began to refer to their hike as the “poop expedition.” A poop hike? A massage? I think I got the better part of the deal.
This night we planned a bush dinner. We invited Miskao to join us. Stephen drove us out. We saw some lights in the distance, and this was our bush dinner. There was a tent set up, lanterns all around. A fire pit on one side of the tent Candles lit the way to the bush toilet even. Sammy, our waiter from camp was there with a full bar, and Francis, our policeman was there to guard against lions. The tent was right by the river. It was too dark to see, but I’m sure there were hippos and crocs below us. We had drinks and sat by the fire pit. It was cloudy and sprinkling, so we couldn’t see stars, but it was quite nice. We had a full menu starting with soup and then the grill. We had our dessert out by the fire. It was quite a special evening.
The site for the dinner was next to the Mara River. The table was quite elegant with roses strewn on it. The guard had a rifle. The food was great. Unlike the balloon ride, this was one of my good choices, well worth the extra dollars.
We only saw a rabbit on the road on the way back, but after packing up, Sammy saw a leopard on his way back to camp.
This was our last day in the Mara. We got up early and planned to come back for breakfast. Tony slept in, so it was just me, my Dad and Miskao with Stephen.
Each tent was assigned a helper. Ours was named Joshua and he was sweet and very attractive. He was supposed to wake me up so I’d have time to finish packing but he missed it by about 40 minutes. The day before I was walking back to our tent and my head was looking above for the blue monkeys that were supposed to inhabit the trees. I bumped into Joshua and he showed me where the monkeys were. I rushed back to our room to get a camera. The monkeys were so much fun. Running around, jumping from branch to branch, tree to tree, fighting with each other, yelling and yelping.
We weren’t expecting that we would see very much on our last short game drive. We saw a giraffe doing its business. Because of the rain, there were lots of mosquitoes out. We found a lion that had caught something. We couldn’t tell what it was at first, just a tangle of fur. Later we realized it was 2 male lions. They had dug up a warthog. The older male got the top half (the best part), and the younger one got the back end. A lioness came by and waiting for her turn. Once the younger male finished, she came over for the leftovers. A younger female was also in the distance waiting her turn. The lionesses poked around the warthog den a little, but didn’t find anything. This was pretty exciting, we were close enough to hear them crunching. We didn’t feel too bad about the warthog, but were sorry for the others that might still be hiding lower in the den terrified.
Back for breakfast and packing up. Stephen drove us all to the airstrip. He picked up new people, and John, the Maasai was there greeting new guests as well. He pointed out an eagle in the distance that had caught a baby lion the other day, which we all were sad about. Our flight back to Nairobi was a little rough. You feel every gust of wind in the little planes. At Wilson we went through security and immigration, no such thing at the bush airstrips. We had a flight from there to Kilimanjaro. That flight was even rougher. We did see the mountain from the plane.
At Kili, we had a new driver and guide, Rashidi. Already at the airport, there were more signs in Swahili and less English. He brought us box lunches and drove us to a hotel to meet the local agency rep, Marian. She warned us that there was a paved road part way, and then we would be in the real Africa. We were on our way to Tarangire Treetops. We stopped for pictures of the mountain from the road. I was amazed that we could see it, I thought it would be covered by clouds. We drove for an hour or two on the paved road passing lots of African markets, then turned towards Tarangire. We really had no idea what bush roads really were like until this point. There was barely a dirt trail to Treetops. We bounced around on this road for a little over an hour. Occasionally, kids would run after our car asking for money. Rashidi gave one of them his leftover box lunch. We saw huge termite mounds and some animals: zebra, impala, ostrich, giraffe, elephant, and jackals. We finally got there at sunset and ordered drinks from the bar.
Come on, Carl, we weren’t at “Kili.” Kili is what they call the mountain and this was an airport named after it but far away. However, that’s not quite as absurd as me getting a t-shirt that says “Just Done It—Kili”. I needed shirts. It was on sale. Rashidi got us some box lunches which were pretty anemic. The ride to Treetops was really hard, the worst we encountered. I can’t believe my back survived, but the place was worth it.
Someone escorted us to the room. At night, you need an escort and they are armed only with Maasai spears. The room was amazing, spiral stairs led up to the room, we had a king size bed, 2 sinks and a double shower. It was built on a raised platform around the trees, not exactly a tree house, but very nice. There was a trapdoor to keep animals out, and we had a real door that locked, but it was semi-tent like. Canvas screens led out to the porch where there were 2 rocking chairs. We were escorted to dinner. Dinner was from a menu, not a buffet like Kichwa Tembo, but this was good because we didn’t eat as much.
Again it was hard to do this camp justice. It was marvelous, even more luxurious than Kichwa Tempo with gorgeous views and lovely amenities.
Someone had posted about the picnic lunch here at Treetops. It isn’t a special lunch; this is what they give you if you are coming back to camp. We had breakfast at the lodge and Rashidi packed up the picnic lunch. It was a bumpy drive to the park entrance. We saw waterbuck and giraffe on the way in. Once in the park, we drove along the swamp, but didn’t see much except for different birds. We crossed over by the river. It is still very dry, though there is water in places. It wasn’t really a running river, not like the Mara River in Kenya, but then it is dry season here. We saw more zebra, elephants. Here we saw the vervet monkey, rock hyrax and dik-dik for the first time. We stopped for lunch at a picnic site. This was a much better lunch than the box lunches. We had a picnic basket with Tupperware, plastic plates and silverware.
After lunch we drove over to Lake Burunge. Here at the edge of the lake, we saw the largest herd of zebra we had come across. On the way back to the lodge, we stopped by a group of elephants. One mother started to get upset that we were too close to her baby. Rashidi drove us away quickly, it looked to me like she was about to charge us. Then we went back to the lodge. We were back early enough to use the swimming pool.
Notwithstanding the beauty of our accommodations, I was a little disappointed with the Tarangire park. Pretty unmemorable. No regrets. Also, compared to the Masai Mara, it was a hard act to follow, just as Rashidi had a lot to live up to compared to Stephen.
This was the first morning I woke up feeling well-rested. We packed and went to breakfast. The credit card machine wasn’t working, so we had to pay all our extras in cash. This was the only place this happened. Then we had to drive out of Treetops. The trail seemed even worse than on the way in. It was about an hour and a half back to the main road. Once there, we had to make several stops. Bathroom, toothpaste, Rashidi dropped off money to someone in one of the villages we went through. At least courtesy of Japan, there was a nice paved road all the way to Ngorongoro.
It felt like we were going around with Rashidi as he did his Saturday morning chores. A little annoyed. But got over it.
made it to Serena Ngorongoro for lunch.
Part of my itinerary discussion suggested going into Lake Manyara
park this day, but that didn’t make it into the local operator’s itinerary and
I didn’t press the issue. In the end, I
thought it was good to have 2 days in the crater. Going down into the crater in
the afternoon, we saw the Maasai herding the cattle out. They have to be out of
the crater by 3 PM or so. It is a dry and dusty place (again dry season) and a
large salt (or soda) lake. We saw wildebeest, zebra and gazelles. Crowned
cranes, for the first time. We found a lone gazelle and not too far from him, a
cheetah. For awhile it looked like the cheetah might get it, the gazelle was
walking towards it, but he realized the cheetah was there are started quickly
walking a different direction and never came in range. We found a large group
of sleeping lions, some cubs among them. They didn’t look like they would be
moving. We saw more hippos, warthogs, jackals and hyenas. Then we had to leave
the crater to be out by 6:30. From what I heard on the message boards, I
thought that vehicles could only stay in for half of the day. This isn’t quite
true, just if you come out, you can’t drive back down. I thought that we would
do a half day in the morning and come back to the lodge for lunch, but since we
could stay the whole day, we decided to pack a lunch. For dinner at the Serena,
I tried local food for the first time, the Ugali. It’s made from cassava, but
is just a starch, like rice or potatoes. Not bad.
At both Kichwa Tempo and here they had entertainment of Massai dancers and singers. I was not entertained by this. It was mostly drums banging and people screaming and squealing.
Even though this hotel is in Travel & Leisure’s top African hotels, I didn’t like it very much. It was very much a typical hotel. The food was just OK. The service was very good, though. I remember our server being very nice. I thought the crater was OK, but sometimes it felt like we were driving in circles, which I think we were. We did see some impressive animals. One problem here, compared to Kenya, is that the guides are restricted to the roads while in Kenya they would drive right up to the animals. There was a huge flock of pink flamingos next to the lake, but we never really could see them but for a blur, even with our high powered binos. Saw lots of baboons and monkeys, elephants and a fair number of lions. Giraffes can’t make it up and down the steep trip down to the crater and sometimes I was surprised our van could.
We were only threatened twice during the trip, if that. They both happened in the crater. We sat down at a place for one of our wonderful box lunches. Sarcasm. And all of a sudden jumped up and yelped. It turned out a red flower fell off a tree and attacked his arm. We were on our way out of the crater and came upon a group of elephants. There was a mother with a young child. The elephant walked into the road and was looking at us intently. All of a sudden Rashidi flipped into gear and drove a distance away. They were all convinced the elephant was going to charge but I was never convinced.
We didn’t get up super early, we had breakfast at the lodge, then headed down. There
was no queue to get in, but we did have some vehicles in back of us, which
because of dust we tried to keep ahead of. One funny thing, when we were
leaving the lodge, our driver was listening to ABBA. We had just seen “Mamma
Mia” before leaving for Africa. I thought we
would be free from ABBA for awhile, but this wasn’t the case. We kept the music
on until we got to the crater floor. Right then, we saw a huge gathering of
hyenas. It turned out that a lion had killed something and all the hyena and
jackals were surrounding him, trying to get something. We watched for awhile
but were pretty far away. Further on, we saw a group of lions heading up the
hill. They also were far away, we saw the male lion from before come join them.
We found a cheetah, but not doing much either. We went to where we saw the
lions yesterday and found a different group of lions nearby. Further on, we
found a large group of hyena near their den. The den we found in the Mara had
maybe 6 hyena, but here were at least twice as many. We stopped for coffee at
the picnic spot. There was a lake with hippos and some wildebeest in the
background. Rashidi heard about a rhino here, we went looking for it. We could
see it, but there were too far away. I think it was another mother and baby rhino,
but we could barely see them in the binoculars. We went back to the picnic spot
where the Serena had brought down lunches. Rashidi thought these would be good
lunches, but after our picnic basket lunch from Treetops, this was back to the
same standard box lunch.
It is very clear that ABBA and Coca-cola unite the world.
After lunch we headed towards the forest, but then Rashidi decided to take us
to an overlook instead. Somewhere here we found 2 cheetah laying in the sun. In
the forest we saw vervet monkeys, elephants (only bulls in the crater) and
baboons. We went back to the hotel since we had a long drive the next day.
Packed up and went to breakfast. By now we realized what to expect from the box
lunch, so we packed up some breakfast items to take with us. Our first stop was
the Maasai village. I was very skeptical about doing this, but it made it on
the itinerary and my Dad and Tony didn’t seem to mind. The village tour started
with a welcome song and dance, then they took us into one of the huts. About 20
people came out of this hut before we went it. They started talking about
Maasai culture, but I started feeling claustrophobic and had to leave the hut.
Then we were supposed to buy something from one of the villagers. It is
supposedly a contribution to the village. Both my Dad and Tony bought
something, and then got something else as a gift. Tony thought haggling here
about the contribution would be inappropriate. After that we went to the
kindergarten where the kids were learning numbers in English.
I got some really nice photos in the village. But it was not Some of the children looked pretty sickly and the village leader was pretty corrupt.
We drove up to the Simba Kopjes. I thought it unlikely that lions really would be there, what are the chances that we would see lions on the Simba Kopjes, but there they were laying on the rocks. After a while, we left the lions and followed a river, we saw Cape Buffalo, a hyena and a few lionesses in the distance. We went back to the lions on the rock. They were more active now, actually, there was an interesting interaction between the male and the females. He got up and sat with one of the females, they walked over to where another female was sitting. That one got up and walked away. But the male and female quickly mated, then moved off of the rock. This was interesting to see. Rashidi said they would do it again in a few minutes, but they just lay in the grass resting.
I found this fascinating. It was the ballet of Africa, the When we got there the four lions were sitting apart. At one point the male went over to one of the lionesses, maybe the youngest and sat next to her. The lion was the most handsome we saw the whole trip. His mane was thick and beautifully colored. I joked that I’d like to get my blonde highlights where he got his. I recall he nuzzled her ear. There was some growling. Then the two got up and went over to a third. Were they going to do a threeway? No. The third lioness stalked off the rock and the two lions went over to their original spot on the rock. There was growling and nuzzling and then he suddenly got up, she got up and he mounted her for about 15 seconds. There was growling. Maybe it was her saying, “Is that all you got?” They got down off the rock and sat together in the grass. The four lioness just sat still the whole time, resting. Ballet over. Or maybe this was just intermission.
We started to head to Mbuzi Mawe camp, but Rashidi had heard about a leopard with cubs someone had found. We passed more lions and a cheetah, then found the kopje where the leopard was. There was a huge traffic jam of vehicles circling the rocks. We could see something in the brush. I took a lot of pictures of leaves. In the binoculars, we thought we could see movement. We sat for awhile. We couldn’t leave because of all the cars. All of a sudden, the leopard jumped up onto the rock. It sat there in the open for a while then jumped back into the brush. We were about to leave when it jumped out again, this time carrying a gazelle it had caught. This was amazing. And
It sure was a good idea. The mob of vehicles was like New York City at 7:30 pm, except some were blocking the box. It’s unfortunate we didn’t get to see the cubs, but it still was an amazing scene.
We drove to the camp, which was still quite far away. We unpacked, went to the bar and had drinks. Then dinner and bed, we looked out on the porch, but didn’t sit there. It was cold here at night.
This tented camp was also wonderful. The tent was even a little more posh than the one in Kenya. The community room was a huge tent and very cozy. There was the same kind of Masai “entertainment,” either the singing or acrobatics. One night the guys didn’t wear shirts and that was sort of nice. The food here was served and very good. The service was excellent. It was interesting that at all the places they served soup at lunch and dinner. They were mostly very good, with interesting seasoning. A lot of the food had an Indian flavor to it.
It was really windy. The tent was shaking and creaking from the wind. We met Rashidi after breakfast. At this point in the trip, we had decided to have all our meals at camp and gave up on the box meals. On our way out of camp, we found a couple with a flat tire who needed help. Fortunately for them, Rashidi had all the tools necessary in our truck and was able to help them. The husband was working on a new camp being built in the area. We started driving and saw impala and both Thompson’s and Grant’s gazelles. We went to a large hippo pool and observed them for quite some time. Often on the game drives we would stop for trees and rocks by mistake. We drove by something that I thought for sure was a termite mound, but I told Rashidi to stop anyway. It was a male lion. It walked towards us and crossed the road right in front of us. It looked pretty old. Further on, we saw some lionesses in the distance, they had caught something and hyenas had gathered around them. One of the lionesses walked over and crossed the road behind our truck. Not far from here, we found another male lion sitting near his leftovers. On the way back to camp, we saw a hippo out of the water grazing.
We left camp after lunch, saw the usual zebra, impala, and elephants. We stopped to look at the vervet monkeys. We went to an overlook and took some pictures of the plains. Rashidi talked to some other guides and heard about 10 lions nearby. He looked for them in the binoculars and must have found them. We drove over a little river and found 3 lions on a hill. Nearby, we saw the other lions all in the grass. We had driven past 9 lions. I think there were 12 here together. This was in the northern Serengeti on the way towards Lobo. It was getting dark so we had to go straight back. We passed another male lion, some hyena waking up for the night. Rashidi saw a wildcat and I think I saw a serval cat, but we didn’t have time to stop.
This was really one of the best days on safari.
On our way to dinner we saw a family of klipspringers on one of the rocks. This was also the first night we heard lions roaring in the distance. The klipspringers were still out when we finished dinner.
We woke up to buffalo right outside our tent. They didn’t linger around too long, they were gone after breakfast. We saw another serval cat on our way out of camp. This time, we did stop for pictures. We found lions by the river, there were gazelles there the other day, but not now. One of the lions had a radio collar on her. We drove a long way looking for cheetah, but didn’t see any. We saw a lot of grazing animals in a swampy area. Everywhere around this swamp was very dry and dusty. 2 lions were here too, one of these also had a radio collar. Then we went to the Seronera station where there was an information center. We rested for a while. There were a lot of birds and bush hyrax here. A walkway told the story of the Serengeti life cycle. There were some modern art sculptures of some of the animals. Rashidi heard about another leopard. We weren’t sure if it was near us or not, but we headed there. We found a cheetah that had caught something. Vultures were waiting in the tree above it. Every once in awhile it would sit up. We found the tree where the leopard was. We kept looking in the branches but couldn’t see anything. We all thought we saw it in different directions. Someone did find its tail hanging straight down, but it was mostly hidden.
Back to the camp for lunch. It was time consuming to come back every day. We didn’t have time to rest, just eat and head out again. I thought this might be our last game drive, but Rashidi said we would have time in the morning since our flight was at 11 am. Most of the time, we didn’t know when our flights would be until the day before. We just had a short drive, around camp there were only impala, giraffe, crocs, buffalo, one warthog. It started raining in one direction and we had to turn back. On the way back we saw some zebra. We packed up and went to dinner and bed.
Our last safari day. We had breakfast and drove slowly to the airstrip. On our last game drive we saw wildebeest, elephants, zebra, impala, gazelles. A lion with a collar was across the river. We waited at the airstrip for our flight. 3 flights came and went, but ours did come. The plane was Regional Air, and it actually was direct to Zanzibar, but we stopped in Arusha and had to go through security. My Dad left us to fly to Kilimanjaro and from there back to Nairobi. Tony and I continued on this flight. Miriam, from Simba met us in Arusha with box lunches and stayed until we were checked into our flights.
It was pretty confusing, all of the different planes, but we all got off to where we were supposed to go. On the way onto the plane I did something really stupid. I had a spray bottle of breathe spray. I took it out of my always bulging pockets and sprayed it in my mouth three times. On the third spritz I discovered how bad it tasted. In fact it was very strong mosquito repellent. I spit large splots of spit and spray out of my mouth on the way to the plane. I was scared. The bottle said I should go to the hospital if I swallowed it. I didn’t think I did, but I was worried. On the plane I went into the toilet and tried to throw up, but couldn’t. I was fine. We arrived in Zanzibar to another chaotic airport scene. But we got our bags and hooked up with our driver to take us to our last part of our vacation.
The flight was just over an hour. We waited for our luggage, but it didn’t come. We didn’t have claim checks or anything since our luggage was all loaded at Seronera. I thought we were in trouble when the baggage handler said our flight was finished and the plane had left for Dar Es Salaam. Tony asked someone who said they were just confused, which turns out they were. We got our luggage and headed out, where we met out local agents. There were a lot of guys waiting outside trying to get our bags which they chased off. Miriam had given us an envelope for them which we delivered. We rode to Fumba in an air conditioned minivan, much more comfortable than the vehicles we had been riding in. Natasha met us at the lodge and showed us around. We went to the beach, it was very shallow and warm. We tried the pool, a little cooler, but still nice. We relaxed, watched the sunset, had drinks at the bar, then cleaned up for dinner. We had dinner on the patio. There were a lot of stars out, I don’t know when I had seen more stars, we even saw the Milky Way. Later on it clouded up.
Carl says that true Safari mavens mock people who use some of their African vacation to go to the beach. Mock away, suckers. This was perhaps one of our best decisions. A safari is very exhausting. You are just sitting in a van or land rover all the time, but bumping up and down. Plus, the dirt from the road is always flying in your face, every pore. It got in my eyes whether I was wearing contacts or not and that tired me out. I would fall asleep in the back of our vehicles if when the bumps hit six on the richter scale.
So a beach vacation was a great idea. To relax. To wash away the dust and dirt and grime. And to continue our animal viewing, this time in the water. I found a place Travel & Leisure called the Fumba Beach Lodge. (Article) It was pretty inexpensive, half board. We got there about four in the afternoon and greeted by a South African woman and her dog Simba. She was pretty expressionless and a little Northern European style cold. She took us to our room which was on the first row closest to the ocean. It was a great room with netting and a fan above us. Not that it was ever really hot. Highlights of Fumba included:
1. The sunsets.
2. Little “cubbyhole” terraces which you could hang out on and drink wine, play scrabble and read.
3. The food.
4. The scuba and snorkeling center, including Davide and his fiancé and assistant Lauren.
5. Simba the dog who would hang out with us when we played scrabble every night. While we’re cat people, Simba was more cat than dog. Not the kind to run up to you, jump on you and lick you. He’d go where he wanted to go, be with who he wanted to be with. We were lucky that he liked us.
6. The little time we spent in Stonetown—that was one thing we needed to do once. The rest of the time we stayed at Fumba except for our snorkeling trip
7. Maybe I saved the food for last. It was really wonderful. The chef was imaginative, skilled and his ingredients were wonderful. We had lobster there twice. Breakfast was nice too, a buffet of breads, yogurts, fruit, and omelets your own style.
We slept late for a change. It had rained through the night and we woke up to a puddle of water on the floor.
We decided to go into Stonetown this day, kinda sorta to get over it. It was expensive to take a taxi into town, so we opted to take a tour that the lodge arranged. We were told it included a guide, but Natasha told us we could make it clear what we wanted to do. We just wanted to walk around but a guide joined us at the mouth of the market and it was hard to shake him. He asked us if we were We told him we were veteran market goers (even though Carl really doesn’t like it). We went in a walked around. There were spice dealers there, but the spices were very expensive. We didn’t know there would be much cheaper spies at gift stores in town. This was supporting local. We toured around and, in fact, it was pretty interesting. He showed us the place where they held slaves and the church that was built over the auction yard. We shopped around and I was able to buy a bottle of vodka so we can make our own proper martinis.
Stonetown was interesting, the fish market had a lot of flies, but the meat market didn’t. Apparently the halal meat, doesn’t attract flies as much. We toured some other small shops. It was Sunday, so the Anglican church was crowded with worshipers.
After shopping the guide wanted to show us more things before we could eat lunch, but we finally resisted. We were hot, had too much tourism, wanted lunch and to go back to and get in the water.
I would have liked to see the museum in the House of Wonders, but I was hungry too.
We went to a port front hotel restaurant which was OK and headed back. We got into a habit of hanging out at the pool, watching and photographing the sunsets and then playing Scrabble at one of the lodge’s cubbyhotels with our martinis. It was thoroughly relaxing.
We tried to order lobster for dinner, but they only had 10 and had run out.
Rained through the night and it was cloudy and gray this day. We read most of the day. I had a massage. It finally broke into blue skies before sunset. Kind of a blah day.
We tried to find the bush baby, but didn’t see any. They were making noise though. Tonight there was enough lobster for everyone.
Luckily we chose this day four our snorkeling picnic day. It was just the two of us with two guys who operated the boat, called a “dhow” and Lauren the co-operator and fiancé of the manager, Davide. She was nice, talked a lot but gave us a really good tour of the reef. We moved locations and snorkeled a little more before going to a small island for a very nice picnic of chicken, beef, salad, beer and cake. We were not aware that we had to switch rooms—neither our tour guide or Natasha told us, and she called Lauren. When we got back we went to our new room which was in the back row of cabins, not nearly as nice, but we spent very little time in the room anyway.
We put on wetsuits, even though it was warm, you can get hypothermia in 80 degree water if you are in it long enough. Lauren dove down and pointed out starfish, giant clams and some other fish. One stretch of the boat ride was slow going, the waves kept lifting the propeller out of the water. On the way back, they put the sail up and that went a lot faster. Changing rooms wasn’t so bad, but it was annoying to have to unpack everything again. Lauren had told us where to find the bush babies so we did see them tonight.
This was our last full day on Zanzibar. We investigated another beach at the resort, but I didn’t like it so went back to the pool. It was a nice, relaxing day.
Since this would be our last chance to sleep for awhile, we slept late. I got one of the guys to bring breakfast to the room. We went to Siri beach on the other side of the resort. The water was nice, but there was a lot of seaweed on the beach. For the first time, we were able to swim at high tide. The rest of the time, the ocean is too shallow. We had lunch here for the first time. Closer to sunset we moved to the swinging lounge.
One of the other “cubbyholes” had a rocking beach chair for two and that’s where we experienced our last Scrabble-Martini-sunset evening. That night it was our turn to have dinner on the beach. That was really wonderful. It was very dark, but it was a great way to look at the mosaic of stars above us. I had never seen so many stars in my life, so close, so vividly. The Milky Way looked like a blanket under the array of closer stars. We had lobster again.
Before dinner, we met Lauren and Davide at the Dhow Bar. She had got a deep sea fishhook stuck in her hand and had to be taken to the hospital. Painkillers had kept her in good spirits. Dinner on the beach was great, candles were dug into the sand, one by one they went out though.
We had a nice last morning at Fumba and went off to the airport for the flight back to Nairobi. The airport at Zanzibar was pretty corrupt. Putting our bags through the x-ray and the operator saws my bag of white shells. She said this wasn’t allowed. “Taking away the resources.” They were pretty vanilla shells. She said she’d do me a favor and asked for a tip. But the passport control guy was nice. “USA. How is Barack Obama going to do.”
“I dunno. I hope he wins.”
“Me, too.” He had a broad smile on his face.
Our African liaisons met us at the airport. Lots of traffic. But we got back to the Norfolk with time to relax, have a drink and take a taxi to an Indian restaurant, which was very good. Just too much food.
That passport control guy was the friendliest I have ever met in the world. Maybe there was a nice one in Sweden, but other than that, no one comes to mind. They are usually very surly. We had lunch while waiting for our flight, but we had to leave the secure area. On the way back in, the security agent took everything out of my backpack. I don’t know what he was looking for, we were the last to board.
Much more traffic in Nairobi, we were lucky coming though the last time. The Norfolk was under construction, so the restaurant we ate last time was closed. We had drinks on the Lord Delamere Terrace, then a taxi to dinner.
Nature woke me up about 4 in the morning and we decided to watch Obama’s convention speech in Denver. It was a kind of funny way we made the transition back to the real world.
We spent the day sightseeing. The city market for trinkets. Isek Dinesen’s house and coffee farm outside of Nairobi. The Natural History Museum. We went back to the Hotel where they let us rent a locker, use the pool and gym and clean up before the journey home. Our flight was at 11:45 that evening. As we worked out at the gym we heard the new that McCain had chosen Sarah Palin. More transition to the real world, though thinking about it I wondered if I was sleeping and this was a dream or nightmare.
The City Market was nice, all the vendors were very friendly. Sometimes I don’t like these markets especially when there are aggressive vendors. We had to drive around to a few ATM’s before we found one that our card worked in. The museums only take Kenyan Shillings. We went into the prehistoric skull exhibit. It was surprising to find out that human brain size peaked 30,000 years ago and have been shrinking ever since.
The Nairobi airport was chaotic outside getting through the first security check, but once in things were pretty straight forward. They called people to the gate about 2 hours before the flight. There were two more security checks and both our backpacks were examined.
We also almost ran out of gas on the way. Traffic was at a complete stop. Also the van took diesel and there was a diesel shortage in Nairobi. We did make the flight, but I counted 5 separate security checks.
I was looking at the gas gauge all day. It started it out closer to empty than ¼ full and it was a long drive to the Dinesen house. I had expected him to leave us at the house and get gas. He didn’t or met with failure. The same thing happened when we were in the museum. Even closer to empty. We got in the van to the airport and George told us that there was a diesel shortage. Lots of traffic. Very, very close to empty. I was pretty nervous. I didn’t say anything to Carl and he hadn’t noticed. Lucky him. Of course we got to the airport. I hope George got home.
The flights home were pretty
uneventful. This time Carl slept more
than I did. It was over. The next animals in the safari of our lives
would be our cats Midnite and Cosmo.
Our Thanks to Bob at Premiere Tours, our safari outfitters. We recommend them without reservations--our reservations were all perfect.
We also thank
Sawyer Insect repellent products
Ben's insect repellent
Our Thanks to Bob at Premier Tours, our safari outfitters. We recommend them without reservations--our reservations were all perfect.