Posts for September, 2014


The city (Nairobi, Kenya)

Journal entry for Monday 1st Sep, 2014 (day 413, miles 6764)

Today as a bit of a change of pace we went on a tour of the city of Nairobi, again with our own driver and car. It was more of a wander around than a specific tour and gave us a very brief exposure to the city, both the downtown area and the slum area Kibera (the second largest slum in Africa after Soweto).

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Traveling to Arusha (Arusha, Tanzania)

Journal entry for Tuesday 2nd Sep, 2014 (day 414, miles 6764)

Today was a traveling day, from Nairobi to Arusha (Tanzania), so no animal watching. The day was not without some points of interest however. To start with the hotel recommended we book our taxi for 5:45 to travel the 15 km to the airport for an 8:30 flight; seemed like a lot of time to us. Once we were on the plane we could understand their suggestion. Even at 6:00am in the morning Nairobi traffic was thick and not moving very fast. At the airport there was a long line of people trying to get into the terminal as all bags and passengers had to pass through a security screen before entering the terminal. And then the gate staff commenced boarding the plane an hour before takeoff. The good news about the early boarding was that the cabin staff could serve the "meal" while we were still on the ground as the 35 minute flight time really did not give them enough time to push their service trolley up and down the aisle more than once. The other good news was the relatively new and apparently well maintained plane.

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Arusha National Park (Arusha, Tanzania)

Journal entry for Wednesday 3rd Sep, 2014 (day 415, miles 6764)

Our safari really does not start until Friday (that is until Lee and Gordon, Nina's sister and husband have arrived) but there was no way Nina could sit in the hotel today and do nothing but wait so yesterday we arranged with our safari company to provide us with a vehicle and driver for the day so that we could visit the local Arusha National Park. Thus at 8:00, Swai our driver for the day (and our driver for our safari as well), was waiting for us with his relatively new Toyota safari vehicle and we soon got underway.

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Tarangire I (Oliver's Camp, Tanzania)

Journal entry for Friday 5th Sep, 2014 (day 417, miles 6764)

The president's presence was still being felt in the hotel this morning. A lot more people, a red carpet out in the main foyer, and a higher level of security. In amongst all this organized chaos we got breakfast, checked out and started out safari. First stop was the downtown area of Arusha, provisioning up for the journey and a briefing on the details of our safari at the office of Easy Travel. Following that, there was a drive of about 2 hours to the entrance to Tarangire National Park. After lunch and park entry formalities we started our afternoon game drive, and it proved to be very successful. By the time the afternoon was over we had seen herds of zebra, giraffe, wilder beasts, antelope, elephant, water buck, small groups of wart hogs, and a number of ostriches. A very successful first afternoon of animal watching. For Nina the day had garnered approximately 850 photos that she had to edit and cull during the evening.

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Cats (Oliver's Camp, Tanzania)

Journal entry for Saturday 6th Sep, 2014 (day 418, miles 6764)

Coffee in bed a 6:00am, breakfast at 6:30 and our mornings walking safari started at 7:30. No lazing around and sleeping late this morning. The walking safari consisted of our group plus one other guest and two armed guides/rangers. We walked for about 2 hours through a variety of vegetation examining animal signs on the ground, and old animal kills. We saw herds of zebra, met a few wart hogs, water bucks, giraffe, and had a bit of a standoff with a lone buffalo. But all in all it was interesting but not eventful.

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A lazy morning and then a travel day (Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania)

Journal entry for Sunday 7th Sep, 2014 (day 420, miles 6764)

Today had a slow and lazy start as we decided yesterday to make this morning a bit of a "recovery". So a latish, breakfast, for me a tour of the camp back-lot (with an inspection of the high-tech solar system and an introduction to the technology if a charcoal refrigerator), and some extended good byes to our gracious host and hostess Justin and Jacky, then it was onwards towards the park gate. Permits to enter the park are issued in units of 24 hours and we had to be through the gate by about 1:30 pm. The drive to the gate was mostly a retracing of previously covered territory but even so we were keen to make our final sightings (in this park) of giraffe, elephants, zebras and of course we kept our eyes open for more novel things. As it turned out our guides diligence was rewarded and we saw another small pride of lions, including a young male that was still dining on their recent kill. To top that we saw another leopard resting in a tree.

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The Crater (Serena Lodge Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania)

Journal entry for Monday 8th Sep, 2014 (day 420, miles 6764)

By 6;30 am this morning we were in our safari vehicle headed down the 600 meters into the Ngorongoro Crater. The crater is a circular depression about 20 km across surrounded by mountains that range up to 3600 meters. The mountains supply the crater with fresh water and hence the grass lands at the bottom of the crater have become home for many animals. As a result the crater is a big attraction for tourists (like us) wanting to see Africa's wildlife.

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Maasai Village (Four Seasons Serengeti, Tanzania)

Journal entry for Tuesday 9th Sep, 2014 (day 421, miles 6764)

Today we drove north to the Serengeti. The name means "endless plains" and it sure lived up to its name, we drove all day (with various sightseeing stops) and at the end of the day we are still not at the end of the Serengeti. Now I do not mean to give the impression that the day was just driving. Early in our day we stopped at a Maasai village for a tour. The villagers organize the tour themselves and appear to provide no "kick back" to the tour company. We were met outside the village by one of the chief's sons who collected our entrance fee. Then there was a welcome dance by a large troupe of men and women, the four of us tourists got to participate in the dancing (not a pretty sight) and then we toured the village, a Maasai house and their school. We could never entirely be sure of this but it seemed like the entire village of 138 people were descendants or wives of the chief.

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Back under canvas (Lemala Lodge, Tanzania)

Journal entry for Wednesday 10th Sep, 2014 (day 422, miles 6764)

This morning we decided to take advantage of the luxury of the Four Seasons and delay our departure until after lunch. So we spent the morning variously catching up and or lazing around. A few souvenirs from the hotel shop, then lunch was done and we were on our way. Swai, our driver/guide, told us that it was 150 km or about 5 hours to our next camp and that our route would take us out of the Park/Conservation area in order to shorten the drive. So the day was largely just a drive to get there. Once out of the Park the roads deteriorated at times being nothing more than the marks of previous vehicles. Swai explained to us that the route we were taking was not used during the rainy season, and we could see why. Long stretches of clay soil that would turn into a quagmire with even a small amount of water.

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Ballooning over the Serengeti (Lamala Lodge, Tanzania)

Journal entry for Thursday 11th Sep, 2014 (day 422, miles 6764)

We were roused at 4:30am this morning with coffee and orange juice for a 4:45 pickup for a long anticipated Balloon flight over the Serengeti. Thus started the days adventures. The second leg of the adventure was the drive to the launching site; a 90 minute drive in the dark on trails that sometimes felt more like an off road coarse. But eventually we arrived to find the ballon partially inflated, the pilot giving instructions and doing his inspection. In short order we were all aboard and in the air, just in time to catch the sun poke its face over the horizon. For an hour or more we skimmed across the plain some times only a few feet off the ground, sometimes clipping trees, scaring wart hogs and ostriches and getting an entirely different perspective on the land and the animals.

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Back into Kenya (Kicheche Bush Camp, Kenya)

Journal entry for Friday 12th Sep, 2014 (day 422, miles 6764)

We could say that today we suffered a bit from some political silliness or national rivalry, depending on your point of view. You see today our itinerary required that we change camps. The new camp we are going to, (Kicheche Bush Camp), is a little north of the Mara River maybe 50 km from Lemala. But to get there we first had to take a small plane from a rough airstrip near Lemala to a town called Tarime, then a car across the border from Tanzania into Kenya at a border town called Isebania, then another plane from another rough strip at Migori to an air strip in the Serengeti called Mara North and then an hours drive to the camp. Now there was once a border crossing between Kenya and Tanzania on the Mara River that would have enabled us to do this same journey by car in a couple of hours but that border crossing was closed to prevent tourists from doing day trips into the Tanzanian Serengeti from Kenya. As it is now if you want to visit the Tanzanian Serengeti you have to take accommodation in Tanzania.!!

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Our day in the Maasai Mara (Kicheche Bush Camp, Kenya)

Journal entry for Saturday 13th Sep, 2014 (day 425, miles 6764)

After the Cheetah sighting last evening our group was eager to spend today looking for a Rhino, but alas our guide was adamant that this was not the area for them, but that he would keep his eye open. Our first good sighting of the day was a male lion happily munching on a kill by himself. The lion was, however being watched by a good many hyenas, jackals and vultures. It was an interesting spectacle as the hyenas tried to intimidate the lion into leaving the kill. Our guide pointed out that the hyenas had blood on their snouts and front legs and probably they made the kill but that the lion took it away from them. We watched for maybe 30 minutes, and a third jackal approached and then the lion casually got up and walked away. That started a bit of mayhem as the hyenas, jackals and vultures all scrurried for bits of meat and the ones that missed out chased the ones that got the food.

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Last game drive (Mountain View Lodge, Rwanda)

Journal entry for Sunday 14th Sep, 2014 (day 426, miles 6764)

This morning we got under way about 9:00 we only had a moderate drive to the local bush airstrip for a flight to Nairobi and connection onto Kigali. But even a simple drive to the airstrip resulted in some exciting game spotting. To my delight only a few minutes out of camp we came upon a Cheetah lying in the grass recovering from a failed effort to run down a gazelle. Amazingly we drove up to within 2 meters of the animal and it hardly gave us a second look. It seemed much more focused on the herd of gazelles 200 meters away. Continuing on our way to the airport we encountered Jackals, Bat Eared Fox (really cute), Elan (the largest of the gazelle family weighing up to 900 kg), Thompson Gazelle and Grant Gazelle.

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Gorillas (Kigali, Rwanda)

Journal entry for Monday 15th Sep, 2014 (day 427, miles 6764)

Today was one of the real highlights of this trip, we were going to see (we hoped) the Mountain Gorillas of Rwanda. There are a number of families of the gorillas living on the slopes of a series of volcanoes in Northern Rwanda near the border with Uganda and The Congo. The Rwanda National Parks only permits 80 tourists per day to visit these families and a visit only lasts for one hour. We booked our gorilla trek over a year in advance showing the level of demand for places. We had heard all kinds of stories about these treks, deep mud, steep climbs, long hikes, thorny bushes and stinging nettles, and rain. We had been variously advised to, wear tough trousers, boots, gaiters, leather gloves, and full rain gear. So we did not really know what to expect as we waited at the front of the lodge for our driver and car.

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An afternoon with Giraffes (Giraffe Manor, Kenya)

Journal entry for Tuesday 16th Sep, 2014 (day 428, miles 6764)

Way back in Arusha when we were briefed by Easy Travel about our trip there was a problem with one of our flights, namely todays; from Kigali to Nairobi. Somewhere along the line the booking got changed (we think by the airline) from a morning flight to an afternoon/evening flight which would have been entirely unsuitable for us as we had tonight booked at a very special place and wanted to get there early to get the full experience, you will see why below. Anyway eventually, and thankfully, we got put back on the morning flight having discussed among ourselves that we could even charter a plane if necessary. Well it seemed this morning that Kenya Airlines almost chartered one for us as our flight (in a Ebraier 190, which holds over 100 people) there were only 12 passengers, and we were 4 of them.

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Zambia/Zimbabwe (Elephant Camp, Zimbabwe)

Journal entry for Wednesday 17th Sep, 2014 (day 429, miles 6764)

We got a prized extra hour with the giraffes this morning as our flight (to the next stage of this adventure) was delayed. We had quite a long and smoggy drive to Nairobi airport as traffic was thick and barely crawled along. We understand from our couple of short visits to this city, and from locals, that this is the usual situation. Too many people, too many vehicles and infrastructure that lags the city. A very common story. Anyway after a pleasant 3 hour flight we dropped down onto the airfield at Livingstone, Zambia to be met by a blast of hot air and 34°C. What a change from the mild temperatures of Kenya and Tanzania. Immigration was quick and efficient and we were soon in a small bus on our way to the Zambian/Zimbabwe border and our next stop Elephant Camp, near Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe.

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The falls, swings, elephants, and lions. (Elephant Camp, Zimbabwe)

Journal entry for Thursday 18th Sep, 2014 (day 430, miles 6764)

Our day started with a blood red sunrise and an introduction to the camps Cheetah named Sylvester over breakfast (I will say more about Sylvester in tomorrows entry). Then it was off on our days activities. Not surprisingly the first event of the day was a visit to the famous Victoria Falls, US$30 entry for foreigners. The falls themselves were hard to photograph as the falling water creates a large mist cloud that partially obscures the entire area. That same mist creates an entirely different micro climate within 20 meters of the falls. Close to the falls the vegetation is almost tropical yet outside that zone the place is very dry, talcum power dust, yellow dry grass and bare soil.

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So about Sylvester (Zambezi Queen, Namibia)

Journal entry for Friday 19th Sep, 2014 (day 431, miles 6764)

Sylvester is a very famous Cheetah, he even has his own Facebook Page. The non profit organization associated with Elephant Camp acquired Sylvester from the Zimbabwe Nation Park Service via a tender process. They won that tender because their proposal was to have Sylvester join an education program that already included the camp elephant families. The good news for us was that, as guests of the camp, we got to spend some time with him.

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Decompressing (Kasane, Namibia)

Journal entry for Sunday 21st Sep, 2014 (day 433, miles 6764)

We four had always planned that our time on the Zambezi Queen would be a time to relax and catch up on sleep after the rigors of our various safaris and so it turned out. Three nights and two and a bit days of sun, water and nothing to do except relax, sleep and casually watch the many animals on the banks and in the waters of the Chobi River. Of course there was one challenge facing us in these days, the challenge of not drinking and eating too much. We probably all scored a B on that subject.

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Departure day (Cape Town, South Africa)

Journal entry for Monday 22nd Sep, 2014 (day 434, miles 6764)

Today was a travel day and the day to say good bye to our travel companions Lee and Gordon. The first part of the morning was occupied with breakfast, paying bills, packing and buying those last minute souvenirs.

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Tourist in Cape Town (Cape Town, South Africa)

Journal entry for Thursday 25th Sep, 2014 (day 437, miles 6764)

The past three days in Cape Town have been reasonably busy. Tuesday and Wednesday we spent with Francois. We decided long ago that it was worth our while to make use of his guiding services as with only a short time in town we would have trouble seeing much by ourselves.

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