Jan's Travel-Rama

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Jan's Travel-Rama
Point Arena, CA

Tanzania & Kenya
July, 1998


  on safari

This was the sign we used on our tent "door" at Kichwa Tembo.

Hi there -

In 1984 we travelled to Kenya on a "once in a lifetime" safari. We thought that by the time we retired the animals would be mostly gone as (in 1984) 95% of all the elephants had been killed as had 97% of the rhinoceros. While we were there, we vowed to return to Africa - someday. In 1998, for our 25th wedding anniversary, we gave ourselves the gift of a second safari. Again we contacted Abercrombie and Kent (as they had arranged our first safari) but this time, we chose to take a tented safari in Tanzania with a 3 day "extension" at our favorite resort in Kenya. We didn't keep a formal diary but can tell the stories through Jack's photos. Below is the account of our adventures.



  mount meru lodge

Mount Meru Game Lodge in Usa, Tanzania.
zoo at mt meru lodge

Nile Crocodile in the Mount Meru zoo.
  stork at mt meru lodge

Stork at the water hole in the Mount Meru
game refuge.

Our safari began at the Mount Meru Lodge. Mount Meru is a lodge with immaculately kept gardens, a small zoo and a game refuge. At the water hole just behind our room were zebra, a young eland, numerous waterfowl and a small family of ostrich. We arrived at Mount Meru well after dark so, although we knew the waterfowl was nearby, we were surprised in the morning by the ostrich peering into our window.



  tarangire elephant 1

Elephant "on a mission" in Tarangire National Park.
tarangire elephant 2

Adolescent elephant almost hidden by the brush in Tarangire National Park.
  tarangire elephant 5

Elephant bathing in the dust in Tarangire National Park.

In 1998, Tanzania experienced the "El Nino" climate phenomenon as did Northern California - with much the same result. There was much rain and many roads were badly damaged or completely washed away. The grasses grew very tall and were very lush. In Tarangire National Park, the grass, herbs and other plants were tall enough to hide all but the tallest elephants. In July, the plants were beginning to dry and the elephants took great delight in taking a trunkfull of plant, pulling it from the ground and then slapping the roots and dirt against their backs - sort of a dust bath (for both the elephants and us).

  tarangire elephant 4

Baby elephant "with an attitude" in Tarangire National Park.


  crater picnic 1

Picnic breakfast at the hippo pool on the Ngorongoro Crater floor.
crater picnic 2

Sign on the door of the ladies' restroom on the Ngorongoro Crater floor.
  crater picnic 4

Picnic lunch on the Ngorongoro Crater floor.

In the Ngorongoro Crater, we had many picnic meals. At one of the picnic spots, beside a hippo pool, there was a sign on the restroom door that warned users to keep the door closed, as there were lions around. (Nice kitty, good kitty.) At another picnic spot, the Helmeted Guinea Fowl were a real threat as they would fly up from the ground and steal our food from our plates. (We really could have used the "kitties" here.)

  crater picnic 3

Helmeted Guinea Fowl in the Ngorongoro Crater.


  crater camp 1

Our camp on the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater.
crater camp 2

Sunset with cocktails on the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater.
  crater camp 3

The staff prepares a shower for us on the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater.

In the Southern Hemisphere, July is the dead of winter. Although we were comfortable during the day, the Crater Rim, where our campsite was, was very cold at night. The low temperatures were near freezing. Everyone on the safari wore every piece of clothing they had brought throughout our stay in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. As a result, when we arrived in the more temperate climate of the Serengeti, there was a lot of clothing for the camp staff to launder. One day we drove into camp after a game drive and found our laundry hanging to dry from all the trees and bushes.

  crater cmap 4

There is so much laundry that it is hanging everywhere!


  crater animals 1

Wading through herds of animals on the floor of the Ngorongoro Crater.
crater animals 3

Hartebeest on the floor of the Ngorongoro Crater.
  crater animals 4

Vervet monkey at a picnic site on the floor of the Ngorongoro Crater.

Our safari guide, William, had been the supervising ranger at the Ngorongoro Crater for several years and so he knew where to go and how to find the best animals. One morning we parked the safari vehicles beside the road in the middle of nowhere on the Crater floor. He instructed us all to remain very quiet and to wait. After about 15 minutes, there were 2 small dots coming down a far away hill. The dots came closer and closer and we were instructed to make no noise and not to move around. As the dots came into view or our binoculars, we recognized a mother and calf rhinoceros. The rhinos are very special, valuable members of the Ngorongoro community. The rangers actually account for each rhino every day and so they know their habits and routes. The rhinos came to within 100 feet of our vehicles before they saw us. (Rhinos don't see well but their hearing is superb.) By the time the rhinos got to our location, there was a line of cars on the side of the road. When the rhinos saw us, they stopped, thought, turned left and went around the vehicles as they crossed the road.

crater animals 6

Mother and male rhinoceros calf in the Ngorongoro Crater.


  crater lodge 1

Entrance to the Crater Lodge.
crater lodge 2

Dining Room in the Crater Lodge
  crater lodge 3

Guest Bedroom in the Crater Lodge.

On our way from the Crater to the Serengeti, we had the opportunity to tour the Crater Lodge. The Crater Lodge is easily the most opulent and elegant hotel we have ever seen. The rooms are decorated in carved mahogany and marble. There are crystal chandeliers in the bathrooms and an attendant for each room 24 hours a day.



  serengeti lions 2

"Drive-up" lion resting under a tree in the Serengeti National Park.

The drive from the Ngorongoro Crater rim to the Serengeti is long and dusty. We were rewarded for our patience, however, as periodically the driver pulled off the road and turned off the engine. As we looked around, we finally looked on the ground next to the truck and found a lion (or 2 or 3) in the grass or under a tree at the edge of the road. These "drive-up" lions aren't all male; we also came across two females walking with two cubs.

  serengeti lions 3

Mother and cub lions walking next to the road in the Serengeti National Park.
serengeti lions 4

Lion cub in the Serengeti National Park.


  serena lodge 1

Entrance of the Serengeti Serena Lodge.
serena lodge 4

Lobby and lounge of the Serengeti Serena Lodge.
  serena lodge 2

Swimming pool at the Serengeti Serena Lodge.

At the end of the day, we arrived at our destination for the night, the Serengeti Serena Lodge. The Serena is one of a chain of lodges that are spacious and comfortable. The grounds of the Serengeti Serena reflect the fact that it is situated in a dry area. But there is a wonderful swimming pool and surrounding patio. Dining is buffet style with just about everything anyone could want.



  hippo pool 1

Hippopotamus at the hippo pool in the Serengeti National Park.
hippo pool 3

Hippos fighting in the Serengeti National Park.
  hippo pool 2

Hippos mating in the Serengeti National Park.

After breakfast, it was off to the nearby hippo pools. This is one of the few places that we could get out of the safari trucks and walk around - as long as we stayed on the paths and didn't go too close to the water. Not only are hippopotamus very dangerous (and fast on land) but the hippo pools were also the home to 20+ foot Nile Crocodile which specialize in springing out of the water and dragging its prey off the shore.

  hippo pool 4

20 foot Nile Crocodile at the hippo pool in the Serengeti National Park.


  serengeti leopard 1

Male leopard in the Serengeti National Park.
serengeti leopard 2

Male leopard "up close and personal" in the Serengeti National Park.
  serengeti leopard 3

Male leopard checking out our vehicle in the Serengeti National Park.

After lunch, we went game hunting again as we drove to camp. Toward the end of the afternoon, we were watching a herd of zebra drinking. Our driver received a call on the radio (in Swahili); he told us there was something to see and immediately we began driving very fast across the Serengeti plain. After 10 or 15 minutes of bouncing and swerving in the truck, we came upon a tree surrounded by our other 2 safari vehicles. In the tree was a beautiful, big, male leopard - the first leopard we had ever seen. As we drove up and the other trucks left, the leopard came down from the tree and began to walk away. He then changed direction and came over to our truck. He sniffed the tire and walked past. He went a few feet away and rolled in the tall grass. Then he did walk away. Evidently we were parked on one of his territorial scent marks.

What an awesome event.



  the chase 1

A herd of zebra and wildebeest drinking at the water hole in the Serengeti National Park.
the chase 2

A stampede as the herd animals sense a predator is near in the Serengeti National Park.
  the chase 3

As the lions rush in, the dust rises in the Serengeti National Park.

Our day didn't end there. As we came within sight of the water hole, we noticed some strange behavior from the zebra and wildebeest. As we drove closer, we saw the herd begin to stampede and run in several directions. A dust cloud was raised just like we see on the National Geographic television specials. We thought we saw a lion running into the dust cloud. We got to the water hole after the dust settled and found a pride of 13 lions had made three simultaneous kills - not because they were hungry but because it was a good opportunity. The lions "played with their food", practicing their smothering and biting techniques, and they were making a sound that was very much like purring. The lions would save the kills for breakfast and be fed for another day.

We went on to camp.

  the chase 4

After the kill, the lions "play with their food" in the Serengeti National Park.
the chase 6

A pride of 12 female and 1 male lions in the Serengeti National Park.


  baboons in the serengeti

A baboon troupe like this one robbed our kitchen in the Serengeti National Park.
  hyena pack in the serengeti

A hyena pack like this one invaded our camp each night in the Serengeti National Park.

Even in camp there can be adventure. At breakfast one morning, we were visited by a baboon who ran down the road past the dining tent. The camp manager and staff arrived to scare him away and the rest of the baboon troupe ran into the kitchen and stole a bag of corn flour. It was a true distract and grab operation.

Every night we were visited by a group of hyena. The hyena would eat the soap that was in the basin on our verandah and then they would drink from our water pails (sounding very much like a dog) and take the water pails into the brush outside camp. Every morning our tent attendants would have to find all our equipment.



  visitor center 1

An exhibit at the Serengeti Visitors' Center
visitor center 2

The exhibits are in Swahili and in English at the Serengeti Visitors' Center.
  visitor center 3

A hyrax family warming themselves on a rock at the Serengeti Visitors' Center.

One afternoon we visited the Serengeti Visitor's Center - a natural history interpretive center built into the rocks of a kopje. There are actually animals that live in the kopje including our friendly rodents, the hyrax, and the beautiful Agama Lizards. One hyrax was warming himself on the top of a rock and a lizard came up to do the same. The lizard annoyed the hyrax until the hyrax actually took his forepaw and punched the lizard in the nose. The lizard left.

  visitor center 5

The male Agama lizard didn't get any camouflage equipment.
visitor center 6

The hyrax and the lizard preparing for battle at the Serengeti Visitors' Center.



After several wonderful days in the Serengeti National Park, we flew back to Arusha. From there, we were driven to Nairobi, Kenya to prepare for our 3 day safari extension at Kichwa Tembo Tented Camp. The border crossing at Namanga (from Tanzania to Kenya) was quite an experience. Unfortunately because the border installation is a government facility, we couldn't take any photos. But the experience could have been right out of a Hemingway novel or out of an Indiana Jones movie. There were cattle, chickens, donkeys and other livestock walking throughout the compound. There were cars, carts, sleeping bags, knapsacks and all other sorts of conveyances and luggage. No ten people spoke the same language.
After our passports were processed on the Tanzania side, we got back into our van and our driver took us through a gate where another Abercrombie & Kent driver and van were waiting for us. We were introduced to our Kenya driver (Drivers from Kenya can't drive in Tanzania and visa versa.); our luggage was transferred to our new van and we were off through a second gate. Now we were in Kenya. After the second round of passport processing, we boarded our van and went right through onto the Kenya highway. Our driver explained to us that the border guards know the Abercrombie & Kent vehicles and A&K's reputation and so we didn't have to be checked again as we left the border area. After a night in Nairobi at the Norfolk Hotel, we flew to Kichwa Tembo Tented Camp.



  ballooning 1

Preparing to launch balloons in the Masai Mara.
ballooning 3

We float silently over the trees and the plain.
  ballooning 4

There were three balloons for about two dozen people.

While at Kichwa Tembo, we went hot air ballooning. We got up well before dawn and arrived at the balloon launch site. Just as the birds started singing (before the first light), the balloon burners were started and soon we climbed aboard. We cleared the trees just as the sun started to rise over the horizon of the Masai Mara (the Northern section of the Serengeti). We sailed over rivers and plains. We saw hippos and elephants and the top of a giraffe's head. The sunrise was red, orange and violet accenting the white mist rising from the ground.
After about an hour aloft, we assumed our "crash positions" to prepare for landing. We bumped a couple of times but landed safely. After photos, we were unloaded and treated to a champagne breakfast including eggs, bacon, sausage and biscuits - all cooked over a balloon burner.
The ground crew loaded us into a truck for the trip back to Kichwa Tembo.

  ballooning 5

The Mara River, below, is home to hippos and crocodiles.
ballooning 7

Breakfast was served on the plain, overseen by at least one hyena.


  baby elephant 1

These baby elephants were less than a year old.
baby elephant 2

They were so young that they couldn't control the ends of their trunks.
  baby elephant 3

They ran at each other and practiced charging.

Our last afternoon at Kichwa Tembo, we were on a game drive and watched a wonderful pair of very young elephants playing. With their mothers nearby, the bigger of the two would put his ears forward as if to charge. He would run at the smaller elephant and, just before they would crash together, one of them would fall on the ground. They separated and repeated this exercise continuously for about an hour until their mothers started to leave the area. It was obvious that the babies were having fun and their mothers were indulging them.



  kt 1

Our tent at Kichwa Tembo.
kt 2

A Kichwa Tembo "lawn mower".
  kt 3

The mongoose are everywhere.

Kichwa Tembo had changed over the 14 years between our visits. There were fences to keep the larger animals out. There was a swimming pool and a vast lawn that was tended by a family of warthogs and a large group of striped mongoose. We were glad we had the opportunity to return to Kichwa Tembo. It had been the highlight of our safari in 1984 and was the reason why we chose a camping safari this year.

  kt 5

The Kichwa Tembo International Airport terminal in 1998.

After a wonderful safari and a memorable extension, it was time to go home.


The End



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