I have had a lifelong dream of seeing Africa—the animals, the people, the scenery…My husband was excited to go but not quite to the level I was. About 2 years ago my husband and I started talking about taking the trip when we retired in several years. After thinking about it, we decided we were young enough to do what we wanted to do now at 55, healthy, both able and alive so, why not do it now while we could! So the research and planning started.
I looked around online at the big agencies, found prices that took my breath away and knew we couldn’t afford them. Then I started looking at Trip Advisor as I use it frequently for trip research. I found the Africa forum and looked at it, eventually whittling it down to Kenya and Tanzania. Read those for a while and decided that Tanzania would be a good match for us. Next step, I started asking questions on the forum, then picked out quite a few TO’s to email, ask questions, etc. Started getting replies back, got a “feeling” for whom I felt more comfortable with and continued asking questions, emailing and calling those OP’s.
Finally, 18 months before the trip, we decided to go with Simon King of EASTCO (East African Safari and Touring Company). Simon was usually-- quick with a response, patient, understanding of what we hoped for and knowledgeable. EASTCO also seemed to be more of the type of company we felt would give us the “fit” we needed for our trip.
After that decision was made I asked many more questions both on Trip Advisor and to Simon. Eventually, we had our itinerary completed. Oh, but I still wasn’t done asking questions! For the next 18 months I continued to find questions that I needed answered. Simon was good natured in answering them and I needed a lot of hand holding for this trip!!! My beloved husband was excited but, I was over the moon!
Now, on to our itinerary:
February 1-16, 2013
We flew IND-DTW-AMS-NBO
Overnight at Silver Springs Hotel, Nairobi, Kenya
Flew Precision Air NBO-MWZ (Mwanza, Tanzania)
Overnight at Speke Bay Lodge
Overnight at Mbalageti Tented Lodge
3 nights EASTCO camp near Olduvai River
Overnight Ngorongoro Wildlife Lodge
3 nights Boundary Hill Lodge
2 nights White Rose Guesthouse, Babati, Tanzania
2 nights Elephant Motel, Same, Tanzania (Mkomazi NP)
Dayroom use KIA Lodge near JRO
Flew home JRO-AMS-ATL-IND
We had never flown this far in our lives. We were a little nervous about the flights. Turned out they were all very close to on-time and as smooth as sitting in our living room. One thing checked off the worry list.
NBO was not the nightmare that I had feared in getting through. We landed 8:30 pm’ish (on Sunday) , did our “stuff” like getting a transit Visa, and were met by the lovely Bertha of EASTCO and Silas our transfer man and taken to the Silver Springs Hotel in Nairobi. It was a very nice hotel. We arrived about 9:30 pm’ish, Bertha got us checked in and went to our room with us. The room was clean, had AC, a good shower, quick Internet and a nice firm bed.
We had our wakeup call (a "hello” and a knock on the door) at 5 am (on Monday), ate breakfast in the nice restaurant and off to NBO at 6 am for our flight to Mwanza to REALLY start our safari. The Precision Air flight was a 50 seater and was a nice smooth flight too. We landed at Mwanza and went through customs, got our Tanzanian visa, (did not have to show our Yellow Fever paperwork) and waited for Melenyia to pick us up for our transfer to Speke Bay Lodge on Lake Victoria. He was a little late but, he took us to exchange some USD to TSH and then we were on our way to Speke Bay. It was an interesting drive along the way.
Speke Bay Lodge is a beautiful, relaxing and perfect way to start a safari. We unwound in the peace and quiet, had great food, slept well and did a great bird walk the next morning with George (our waiter/bird guide). The birds at Speke (over 200 species found there) were a lovely way to start our Tanzanian birding, especially seeing the African Fish Eagle! Jan is a great host/Manager at Speke Bay Lodge! We met our EASTCO guide, Ezekiel, at Speke the next morning (Monday) after birding and breakfast.
Monday, February 4—we left Speke around 1 pm and were off to the Western Corridor of the Serengeti through the Ndabaka gate. Lovely area, no people, no cars, our first African mammals, our first Lioness, and our first bites by Tse. About 5:30 pm we rolled into Mbalageti Tented Lodge. Simon had surprised us by switching us out of Serengeti Wildlife Lodge to here—THANKS Simon. Oh, my, what a beautiful place! Our tented chalet was right out of a magazine (to us at least). It had 2 lovely netted beds, a beautiful porch and a most magnificent bathroom with a claw foot tub! Divine. The food at the restaurant was wonderful and overlooking the Western Corridor at dinner and seeing Twiga (Giraffe) was just fantastic. I saw my first Topi and found it was one of my most “favoritist” animals of the trip. Not sure why I liked them so much but I did. My husband on the other hand was the Ostrich spotter and man. Each to his/her own J We slept well and had a great breakfast the next morning.
Tuesday, February 5—we met Ezekiel at 7:45 am and off we went driving toward the Central Serengeti. I tried, as I did every day of the trip, to keep my excitement to a manageable level. As always my beloved husband was the calm, cool, silent type that balances me out!
Our route took us from Mbalageti—Seronera—Ndutu—Olduvai River (EASTCO camp). Lots of birds today (yeah!). The changes in scenery from the Western Corridor to the Olduvai area were just beautiful. I think my highlight today was seeing a Dung Beetle at work. I love them!! Ezekiel thought that was funny! We had lots of laughs on this trip between my husband, Ezekiel and me. We were forming a very good travel partnership, all 3 of us! Ezekiel would prove to be a wonderful “match” for us. It just took him a bit to get used to my dry humor and my beloved’s quiet humor. Ezekiel uses the term “check tire” for going to the bathroom. Let me tell you, I “check tire” a lot, Ezekiel and my husband on the other hand have bladders the size of Africa! Got into the EASTCO camp around 5 ‘ish, settled into our tent with a real live firm bed!, showered, had dinner, met our camp neighbors (a Mom and daughter from Australia and an American couple) and off to bed by 9’ish.
Wednesday, February 6—off today to hunt for the Great Migration! Drove for about 2 hours and found it near the Mastiti area. The bumpy roads/paths we drove took us by great birds, small Massai bomas, uniformed kids going to school, a Massai schoolhouse, and lovely landscapes. Ezekiel had super driving skills and a sharp eye. When we found the Migration, it just gave us goose bumps. It was unexpected too as we wanted to see the Migration but, wouldn’t have thought the trip a failure if we didn’t. To be in the middle and surrounded 360 degrees by all of these animals was amazing, just unbelievable. We were amongst something that we had only read about and seen on TV.
Oh, did I mention that we saw CATS—Cheetah, a pair of Lions my husband spotted (he had a sharp eye, probably because he was looking, unlike me who was looking, taking photos, asking questions, catching my breath from excitement, etc.), a single Lioness and a pride of 11 Lions including a collared male! They were sleeping, stretching, yawning, sitting, staring…. The birds we saw today were lovely too, even a pair of Hooded Vultures mating. We got back to camp around 6:30 pm and we had more new neighbors (an Australian couple). We all met for a good dinner and talk of our day. Off to bed after going through photos and journaling. What a wonderful, exciting and tiring day.
Thursday, February 7—it turned out to be a very dusty and windy day today! We cruised the Ndutu area today looking for “action” as Ezekiel called it. Highlights of the day were: a Leopard surrounded by 14 vehicles, a small group of Lions-- with a male laying flat on his back with all 4 legs in the air and showing all his “manliness’ as Ezekiel and my husband called it--he was a “happy boy”, Cheetah, Lakes Ndutu and Masek, and lots of Vultures. This is our last night at the EASTCO camp. We had dinner with our tent neighbors and shared stories of our day again. What a fun group! Usual 9'ish bedtime, photo deleting and journaling.
It's been fun camping here! The setting is so serene and peaceful. the staff including Costa and Dixon have made our stay nice. They do a great job cooking over a fire, bringing hot water for the shower, and helping to make our stay enjoyable. The sunsets and sunrises are gorgeous! One thing I will not miss is the bucket shower. Bucket showers and thick curly hair just do not go well together. Just one of my high maintenance needs :) My husband on the other hand did just fine with the bucket shower. He doesn't have much hair, legs to shave, etc....
Friday, February 8 Ngorongoro Crater begins the next installment.
A link to our photos--we took about 1700 total and I culled it down to 393. I took so many because I did not want to forget any detail of our trip trip I guess :)