S: Steinwald Africa Adventure - August 2010 - Part I
FC: The Steinwald Africa Adventure August 2010 | Part I
1: Day 0, Sunday August 1 (DC – Dulles – TransAtlantic): An ordinary day at the start. R does emails (as usual), B&R walk Lola, and pack. Boys return from beach at noon, and all finish packing. (A has the heaviest bag, but still less than the max 33 lbs.) Ana arrives at 3:30 and we say goodbye to Omi and Lola and head for Dulles AP. Check bags (a little confusion over e-ticket), thru security, then walk to terminal A because new tram system is not working. Get snack, board KLM plane to Amsterdam (appears full), and take off roughly on time. Drinks and snacks are provided; then a decent plane meal. We watch movies and try to sleep – our adventure has begun!
2: Day 1, Monday August 2 (Atlantic - Amsterdam – Nairobi): Day begins somewhere over the Atlantic. After breakfast we arrive at Schiphol AP @ 8:00 a.m., find our connecting gate, snack quickly, then thru a separate security gate for our flight to Kenya (same e-ticket issue). After another crowded 8 hr flight, we arrive Nairobi @ 7:20 p.m., go quickly thru customs, get visas (@ $25), are fingerprinted, and claim luggage (we all have the same canvas bags purchased for the trip). Rosemary and Lazarus are waiting to provide transport to the Hotel Serena. Roads are rough and crowded with pedestrians and different types of vehicles. Rosemary answers our questions while Lazarus navigates traffic. Arrive hotel (very nice – Small Hotels of the World member), check into adjacent rooms, and go for dinner @ 9:30. Food is varied and excellent – we try several dishes w/ Tusker beer. We explore hotel grounds briefly with armed security guards looking on, then to rooms overlooking part of Nairobi. Hard to sleep, but early pick-up tomorrow.
3: The Nairobi Serena, a member of the Small Hotels of the World, is exceptionally nice... and has excellent food!
4: Rosemary and Lasarus take us to a small regional airport in Nairobi, where we depart for the Kenyan Serengeti
5: We see a little bit of Kenya from the air before we land at the Mara airstrip
6: Day 2, Tuesday August 3 (Nairobi – Masai-Mara, Kenya):
7: Awake at 6:00, shower, etc., then to buffet breakfast (A claims it’s the best ever). Sorry we couldn’t spend more time at the hotel. Rosemary and Lazarus pick us up at 7:00 and drive to a small, regional airport outside of Nairobi. See lots of pedestrians coming into the city for work. At AP we board a small plane (12 seats), take off, and see a bit of Kenya from the air. In 45 mins, we land on a dirt runway at Mara AP near the Intrepids safari camp where we are staying. We are met by Samson, our guide for the next 3 days, who drives us into the fenced camp and lodge. Too early to check in, we have coffee overlooking a gully with a rope bridge, and wait for our first safari to begin. Samson takes us out at 10:30 in his Land Rover, points out some of the foliage near the camp, then takes us the first of several times over the “smelly crossing’” where mostly submerged hippos eye us suspiciously. Into the Serengeti we go and are immediately surrounded by animals, including zebra, wildebeest, and giraffe. We are blown away. Return to lodge @ 1:00 for good lunch on patio, then to our lodgings for a nap. Intrepids is a permanent tent camp, where each tent has 2 beds with mosquito netting, 2 sinks, walk in shower, separate toilet room, and several other amenities. Samson picks us up for afternoon safari at 3:45 and we don’t return until after dusk. We see many animals including a pride of lions and a “coalition” of 3 male cheetahs. Dinner in the lodge is excellent, multi-course, with a bush baby looking on from the rafters. By the time we turn in, it is very cold, but hot water bottles are provided. Flashlights are also provided because the electricity is turned off, as is the hot water. We zip up our tents (to keep animals out) and go to bed at 9:30, exhausted but happy to be there.
8: We hang out near a rope bridge over a gully behind Intrepid's Lodge, waiting for our first safari to begin
9: The first of many times over the "smelly crossing" in Samson's Range Rover - he says it's sulfur in the water, but the hippos may have something to do with it
10: Not long into the drive, we see our first elephant and giraffe
11: Ronnie loves giraffes!
12: The wildebeest or gnu is the most numerous animal in the Serengeti
13: The wildebeest roam the Serengeti looking for grazing territory and the zebras hang out with them
14: Another common antelope in the Serengeti is the Topi, with purple markings on its face, shoulder, and rump
15: Back across the smelly crossing, the hippos eye us suspiciously
16: On our second safari drive, we nearly run over a pride of lions
17: The famale lions are not very large but we don't mess with them
18: The antelope use termite mounds as lookout posts, while the vultures have a much higher vantage
19: Late in the day we find some cheetahs resting under a tree
20: The sunsets are beautiful in the Serengeti
21: The last animals we see are a hyena hunting after dusk and a bush baby who joins us in the lodge for dinner
22: Day 3, Wednesday August 4 (Masai-Mara, Serengeti, Intrepids Camp): Up @ 5:30, Samuel brings coffee (tea for the boys) and cookies to our tents. It is cold! (11 Celsius). P & A take showers but B&R don’t dare. Meet Samson, who has packed breakfast, at 6:15 and head out while still dark. The sun rises on the way to the Mara R., where we hope to see the wildebeest cross. We have breakfast watching several thousand wildebeest not cross, disappointing the waiting crocodiles. (The Nile crocodiles hang out on the river and its banks – they are very large and dangerous-looking.) Back to lodge, it is warmer but P&A decide the pool water is still too cold for a swim. After lunch and nap, we meet Samson again for afternoon safari. The high point is seeing a leopard’s kill hanging in a tree (the leopard’s method for protecting his food from hyenas and other chislers), then seeing the leopard return for a meal. P spots the leopard and Samson gets us to a good viewing spot, after avoiding two annoyed elephants who are in the way (they put their trunks down on the ground in a belligerent manner, and Samson takes a wide detour). Back to lodge, we shower before dinner at 8:00. We are joined by Masai warriors who dance around the lodge (P joins them) while the bush baby looks on. Note: The spelling is either “Maasai” or “Masai,” but the latter appears more modern. They are very good-natured, although not all are very tall as legend would dictate. To bed early again, with hot water bottles and flashlights.
23: Up early, Samson provides Masai blankets to keep warm, while nearby leopards snuggle up
24: African buffalo and elephant greet us
25: And, of course, more giraffes on the Serengeti plain
26: High point of the day - we see a leopard's kill hanging in a tree - later, P spots the leopard's return for a meal
27: With difficulty, Samson takes us to a good viewing spot; feeling some pressure, the leopard stalks off
28: Late in the day, we spot an eland, the largest antelope; elephants and hippos come out to graze
29: We head back to the lodge as the sun sets
30: After dinner at the lodge, the Masai warriors perform for us
31: Peter joins them as the bush baby looks on in amazement
32: Day 4, Thursday August 5 (Masai-Mara, Intrepids): Wake up again in the dark with coffee and cookies provided. Out with Samson @ 6:45, we watch the sun rise over the Serengeti with many balloons up in the air. We find the three cheetah brothers hunting and follow them for a bit. Down to the Mara again, hopefully, but the wildebeest seem uninterested in crossing. We find a male lion with a bloody mane (messy eater), and take several pics before returning to the lodge for breakfast. Afterward, we visit a Masai village ($80 fee to the Chief). Both females and males dance for us (surrounded by poop), then try to sell trinkets. R buys a ceremonial club while B chats with Samson and the chief’s son, Joel. Back to lodge for lunch and nap, then off again at 3:45 in the heat. We look for Rhino but don’t find them, so Samson takes us to a scenic spot where we look out over the Serengeti in Kenya and Tanzania. (Most of the park is in Tanzania but, as we learn later, guides have more freedom to roam with their clients in Kenya.) Back to camp by nightfall, we shower and dine in the lodge (the bush baby tries to steal B’s bread) and visit the shop where we buy belts and Christmas tree ornaments.
33: Up early again, we pass the soccer field (giraffes have an advantage) and see many baloons up in the air
34: Later that morning we find a male lion snoozing; he wakes up
35: It looks like the lion has eaten recently, but mom looks a little nervous anyway
36: We find a hyena with a good-size bone in its mouth, and a jackal on the hunt for prey
37: Carrion birds fight over some left-over morsels; nothing is wasted in the Serengeti
38: We find the cheetah brothers out on a morning hunt
39: The cheetahs also use termite mounds - to look for prey
40: We see herds of gazelle and buffalo . . .
41: And many birds (Samson calls them "buds") on the way back to the safari begin and end point
42: After lunch Samson takes us to a Masai village ($20 apiece to the chief)
43: The admission fee includes an invitation to visit one of the huts and drink some blood-milk (thankfully, they were out)
44: The Intrepid permanent tent accommodations are quite nice
45: All the comforts of home are provided
46: Back out on safari, we find an ostrich and a jackel, but no rhino
47: Samson takes us to the high ground, where we can see a storm brewing in Tanzania
48: Day 5, Friday August 6 (Masai-Mara – Nairobi – Kilimanjaro – Arusha – Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania): Up again at 5:45 (not quite as cold), we are out with Samson at dawn, our objective being to try once more to see the wildebeest cross the Mara. Amazingly, they decide to go just as we are about to leave. It’s a crazy scene – thousands of gnus and a few zebra cross and the crocs get a meal from the few who don’t make it. Satisfied, we return to the lodge, have breakfast, pack, checkout and Samson takes us to the AP for an 11:00 a.m. flight. The plane comes very late (not sure why), but eventually a small Safari Links plane comes and we say goodbye to Samson who waves until we are out of sight. B chats with a fellow claustrophobe while the plane makes two puddle-jump stops before going on to Nairobi. We change quickly on to another small plane (they are waiting for us) and fly to Kilimanjaro AP in Tanzania. Complete visa process (@$100), thru customs, and meet Bilal, our next guide. Then, a hair-raising drive to Arusha, meet official for briefing, another hair-raising drive to Ngorongoro NP (we are late), and commune with baboons while Bilal gets out park passes. Finally, up to crater rim while it gets dark and check into Serena Lodge, which is rustic but nice. Shower, go to dinner (meet German family), and to bed @ 11:00.
49: Up early again, we head down to the Mara River to see if the wildebeest will cross
50: Just as we are about to leave, the wildebeest mass and cross the river . . .
51: while crocodiles and scavengers await them (they don't all make it)
52: Back at the lodge, we have breakfast and say goodbye to the staff, then Samson takes us to the airport
53: Several hours later we hang our with baboons while our new guide, Bilal, gets out tickets to Ngorongoro Park in Tanzania
54: The Ngorongoro Crater is a unique geological formation -- our lodge sits on the crater rim
55: The accommodations are rustic but very comfortable
56: Day 6, Saturday August 7 (Ngorongoro Crater): Up at 6:30, buffet breakfast; Bilal picks us up at 7:30. We descend into the crater – fantastic vistas on the way, (and Masai selling blankets and stuff along the road). There is a large lake in the center of the crater and some forested areas. Three male lions greet us as we reach level ground. There are many vehicles, tending to congregate at interesting places (facilitated by the drivers communicating by cell phone). P spots lions pulling down a wildebeest, and we film them from a distance. We see lots of elephants and a rock python, then have a picnic lunch by the lake (B counts 65 vehicles). After lunch, we search for black rhino, which we find 500 yds away (can’t leave roads here to get closer). Up the one-way crater road, very steep, we return to lodge and have a snack with 3 different brands of beer (like Safari best). R&P&A explore the shop while B invites the German family (Hermann) to dine with us. We join them about 8:00 in the restaurant, have a nice meal and conversation (esp. about electronics), and learn that they will be in Zanzibar at the same time we will be there. After agreeing to meet the following week, we return to our rooms and play cards for a while before retiring.
57: The next morning we head down a narrow road from the crater rim, and are met below by two male lions
58: The crater rim is shrouded in mist Many birds, including flamingos, are in or near the crater's lake
59: There is also a marshy area where more birds and hippos can be found
60: Ostriches are found on the savannah
61: We see four female lions bring down an antelope (we have this on film)
62: The wildebeest are everywhere, and the hippos do leave the water to graze
63: Baboons eye us suspiciously
64: Although the area is full of dangerous snakes, the only one we see is this rock python
65: We mostly see elephants in this part of the park
66: We see warthogs and cheetahs on our way to lunch at the local picnic spot
67: B counts 65 vehickes at the picnic spot, which has one good photo-op location
68: After our box lunch, we hang out with baboons and hippos . . .
69: Before climbing back up to the crater rim to our lodge
70: Day 7, Sunday August 8 (Ngorongoro Crater – Tarangire NP – Treetops Lodge): Up about 6:30, pack and head to buffet breakfast. See Hermann family one more time (in their safari outfits), check out, and meet Bilal for the long drive to Tarangire NP. The roads are okay, but not well marked with many dangerous potholes and police stopping sketchy-looking vehicles. We pass Lake Manyara and lots of roadside shops, many with a big red X over their signs because they are too close to the road (Bilal tells us). Stop for gas and stretch break at a place where Bilal seems to know everyone (tempted to buy some Tanzanite), then onto dirt road for bumpy ride to Tarangire NP. Bilal buys our park passes while we scope out the other tourists (no Americans that we can see). Stop at park lodge for lunch (Indian theme) and beer, then back on to rough road, passing many Baobab trees (the “tree of life”), and eventually reach Treetops camp, so-called because all of the units are built around Baobab trees. We check into rooms 19 & 20 and lounge by the pool for a while. Not far away is an animal pool where elephants are drinking. We have to be escorted to and from our rooms, which are semi-circular, spacious, with many amenities, because of the animal risk (this place is not fenced). Later, we dine buffet-style in the outdoors where Masai men perform for us. Afterward, we have drinks in the lodge and are escorted to our rooms. Sometime during the night, B is stricken with serious diarrhea (from what?), takes Cipro at 4:00 a.m., and is up all night listening to Africa sounds.
71: The next day, Bilal takes us on a long drive through the Great Rift Valley into the Serengeti plains
72: Along the way, we see several roadside shops and towns . . .
73: And several Masai tending cattle before we eventually reach Tarangire National Park
74: We hang out for a bit while Bilal gets our park tickets . . .
75: After lunch at a lodge in the park, we see several animals on our way to our next destination, Tarangire Treetops camp
76: The camp gets its name from the fact that the lodge and all of the units are built around and among Baobab trees
77: The accommodations are remarkably luxurious, with great views and all of the comforts of home
78: Next to the spacious lodge is a swimming pool, also up above the surrounding area for protection
79: At night we dine at an outdoor buffet (it is chilly) and are entertained by the Masai
80: Day 8, Monday August 9 (Tarangire NP – Treetops Lodge): B is unable to rally and stays in bed all day (learns later that sounds heard in the middle of the night were made by a male lion roaming the camp). R&P&A head out on safari with Bilal. They see lots of elephants, eagles fighting, baboons, etc. B can’t eat but takes more Cipro (hope it will work!) and eventually gets out of bed and explores a bit. The lodge is constructed from mangrove wood and reclaimed ship wood. Each unit has its own water supply, with hot water (heated by wood fires) available early and late, and enough water pressure and hot water for two good showers. Units are entered through circular stairs that have a trap door at the top. Views are expansive and birds and animals omnipresent. R&P&A return @ 4:00 and go to pool (B joins them later for dinner, but still can’t eat), then on evening safari after dinner (see bush babies, hares, and other nocturnal animals). To bed, hoping for the best tomorrow.
81: The next day R&P&A are off on safari while B stays in bed and takes Cipro
82: Birds are varied and plentiful
83: Eagles fighting (don't know why)
84: Young elephants play fighting
85: Mom and babe drinking and wading
86: The water source attracts many animals
87: Lunch with Bilal -- lots of Baobab trees in Tarangire Park
88: Back at the lodge we relax by the pool before dinner; B stays in bed
89: Day 9, Tuesday August 10 (Tarangire NP – Treetops): B rallies! Up @ 7:00, breakfast, then into Bilal’s Toyota Land Cruiser for another game drive in Tarangire NP. We see many birds, leopards and lions, giraffe and elephants. Stop for lunch @ crowded picnic area (same place as yesterday - R won’t eat in truck, so she finds us space at a picnic table). More driving, then back to camp @ 5:00 and decide to go on a game walk. Off we go into the bush with guide with rifle in front and Masai with spear in rear. Find ant lion and scorpions, see elephant and water bock. Back to camp, we shower and dress for dinner @ 8:00 – same as night before last with buffet and Masai entertainment. To bar after dinner for liquor made from Baobab tree. Escorted back to rooms, we retire at about 10:30.
90: Back out on safari the next morning, we find an active termite mound and A contemplates a strange fruit
91: While the carrion birds wait hopefully on a nearby tree
92: More elephants . . .
93: Then lunch at the same picnic spot (R finds the table)
94: Back at the lodge, we decide to go on a walking safari -- ranger with rifle in front, Masai with spear in back
95: We don't see many animals, but it's a relief to be on foot for a change