African safari: Kenya & Tanzania Trip Report
- Submitted by: Gopal Venkat
- Submission Date: 04th Feb 2005
African Safari - Kenya & Tanzania, September 1998
September 3, 1998
Boarded the American Airlines flight to London en route to Nairobi for the Start of my African Safari. From London I was to take Gulf Air to Nairobi with a Stop-over/flight change in Muscat, Oman. I was taking a Cheap Flight !! The Airfare was around $1200. The Safari was an all Camping Safari (both in Kenya and Tanzania). I was trying to do it on the CHEAP. The argument being that I was going to Africa to see wild animals, not to sleep on comfortable beds or enjoy continental breakfasts !!
This was 3 weeks after the Bombing of the US Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. If the bombers expected me to be deterred by these acts, they were wrong. (It also helps that I do NOT hold a US Passport)
But for the layover in Muscat (3 hours from 11 PM till 2 AM), everything was OK. Landed at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport on September 5 around 7 AM. I was to be met at the Airport by a representative from my Safari Company (Best Camping Tours & Safaris http://www.kenyaweb.com/bestcampingtours/) As is usually the case during these trips, no one showed up. Being a former British Colony, English is Spoken widely in Kenya. After Changing $100 (Obtained around 5500 Kenyan Shillings), I took a taxi to the Hotel. Though Taxis have metres, the rate is usually negotiated before the commencement of the trip. In this case, I wound up with a Price Tag of 1000 Shillings (US $18) which wasn't bad. The Journey from the Airport to the Hotel (680 Hotel, Phone : 254-2-332680) took around 30 Minutes. Traffic is Chaotic.
September 5, 1998
The Hotel folks had no reservation under my name (wasn't surprised). When I told them I was joining a Best Camping Tour, I was given a room without further ado. They were Planning to Call Best Camping and inquire about me being on any of their tours. After the long Journey from New York, I badly needed a Shower. After checking into my room, I received a Call from the Best Camping folks, informing me that there was a Law & Order Problem in one of the Parks I was to Visit (Samburu) and that my Trip to Amboseli was being Preponed to TODAY !! (As per the Itinerary, I was to leave for Amboseli Tomorrow, September 6, 1998) They said that there would be a Convoy of Vehicles leaving for Samburu on Tuesday, September 8 and I was to go in one of those Vehicles. (Safety in Numbers) They said I would be picked up from the Hotel in about an Hour. After Taking a Shower, I packed my essentials (for the Amboseli Visit) in to a Small Bag and got ready. (Suitcases are not Permitted on any of these Safari Trips. Anticipating this, I had carried a soft case inside my Suitcase. The reason for the Larger Suitcase was to accommodate any Purchases I might make during this Trip) Since I was in a Hurry to get ready, I was unable to Check the flow of water in the Toilet Bowl !! (being in the Southern Hemisphere, it should be anti-clockwise)
The folks arrived around 9 AM and picked me up at the Hotel and took me to the Best Camping Offices. The Owner/manager, Shiraz Nanji told me that someone was indeed waiting for me at the Airport and that he was delayed a bit !! (not an unusual excuse) Anyway, he agreed to reimburse me for the Airfare from the Airport. After explaining the Problem to me (at Samburu) in detail he told me that the Wire Transfer I had sent was a bit short (due to exchange rate fluctuations) and that I had to pay the equivalent of $20 to cover the same. We agreed to Square it off with the Taxi Fare that was owed to me. I also Paid him for the 3 Nights I would be Staying at the 680 Hotel. The rate (negotiated in Bulk by these Touring Companies) was $45. A word of Advice : I thought I was being Smart when I decided to Book it directly with the Tour Company in Nairobi. It wasn't to be. Folks in North America can Book any Tours on Best Camping (and a Host of Other Tour Operators) through Safari Centre, (http://www.safaricenter.com/) or (800) 223-6046 based in California. I did book my Tanzania leg of the Safari through Safari Center. Marj Abbott of SafariCentre was quite helpful.
One can leave Bags (that are not required during the course of the Trip) at the Best Camping Offices. These are Kept in a Luggage room. I did leave my Suitcase there. I was to be Joined in the Trip to Amboseli by a Dutch Couple and a Danish Lady. After Introducing Ourselves, We were Introduced to our Driver/Guide Peter. All the touring Companies I observed during my 3 Week Safari, have a Driver who is usually an expert in Tracking Animals, in explaining their Habits and in helping us Identify the Animals. (Before the Safari, I had little knowledge about a Kudu or a Dik-Dik !!)
Tap water is not recommended for Drinking for the Soft souls who go to Africa from Western Countries. Bottled water is available and one should Stock up on the same in Nairobi before heading to any of the Game Parks. A 3 Litre Bottle is around 200 Shillings. We left for Amboseli around 10 AM. After leaving Nairobi and its environs we headed towards the town of Namanga located on the Border with Tanzania. It took a while for reality to set in. (that I was actually in Africa and heading to a Game Park. It's had always been a dream and now it was a reality)
Midway through the Trip to Namanga, we stopped to have our Picnic Lunch. Being a Vegetarian, I got an Apple, a bottle of Juice and two sandwiches with cheese. Since the other Option was to Starve, I ate whatever was given. As is always the case with these Organized tours, the Bus/Minivan/Truck usually stops where the tourists can be easily lured into buying stuff. This was no exception. The moment we Completed Lunch, a couple of folks pleaded with us to visit their 'HANDICRAFT' Shop. 'Don't Buy. Just Look. No Problem' was their Mantra. (Hakuna Matata)
Since most of these People have evolved from Various Tribes, one cannot communicate with a member of another Tribe using these Dialects. Hence the need for a Common Language. Swahili is the Language that Bonds the whole of Kenya / Tanzania / Africa. For those not familiar with the Movie 'Lion King', Hakuna Matata means 'No Problems or No Worries. It is used Frequently by almost everyone here.
I digress. I did see a beautiful Masai Face Mask. The Price was Quoted at 5000 Shillings ($90)
The Look of disbelief on my face, prompted the Sales Person to lower it to 4000. After a long Bargaining Session, I finally got the Mask for 1100 Shillings ($20). Bargaining is Mandatory in Kenya & Tanzania. Always Start with 15% of the Quoted Price. If you can obtain the Object of your Desire by paying not more than 25% of the Original Quoted Price, you have done all right.
(Not Great, just all right)
Most of these folks will also agree to Barter deals. One must Carry 2 Dozen Ball Point Pens and a Dozen T-Shirts. They can help you acquire quite a few Items on your Souvenir List. I could have obtained the Mask for a Couple of Pens or even a Single T-Shirt. If you are Carrying T-Shirts, carry some with something Inscribed on it. Anything Americana, is a Godsend down there. (Guess it gives the local who acquires it, quite a bit of Bragging Rights) I guess they are no different from most tourists who Visit Africa (who would give the shirts on their backs to get a piece of handiwork that was crafted in an African backyard !!). The Same folks who Upon reaching their home in Europe / Asia or America would weave Tales (fanciful in most cases) about how they came upon a particular Souvenir. Works both ways.
After the Lunch we continued on to Namanga. Upon reaching Namanga, the driver took off around town on foot to acquire Supplies for the 2 Days at Amboseli. Though Best Camping has a Cook Stationed Permanently at Amboseli, supplies must be taken along with every group that visits the park. The driver went around acquiring bread and Vegetables. The Coupe-de-grace was a Pair of Chickens (alive and Kicking) that were to accompany us on the Journey before they graced the Palates of my Travelling Companions !! After an hour's stop at Namanga we left for Amboseli. The road is a Dirt Track. We simply leave Civilization (and the comforts that come with it) behind. It is a refreshing experience. Though tourism is a Principal Source of Foreign exchange for Kenya & Tanzania, they do not see the point of developing a host of facilities to encourage tourism. This is to Protect the animals from the Hordes that might come if there were good roads into these Parks. In other words they do not want to Create an Orlando, Florida or Cancun, Mexico with their Crowds and attendant Problems. I couldn't agree more.
Though my head agreed with their viewpoint, my Butt did NOT. I was sitting above one of the rear Wheels and the drive to the Park was quite a bumpy ride. We did see quite a few small mammals and Birds along the way. Peter (the Driver) was quite good in telling us which is which.
We reached Amboseli 2 hours after leaving Namanga. It was around 4:30 PM. Peter went in to get a Pass for the Vehicle and tickets for us. (All these are Included in the Tour Price). He was away for 20-30 Minutes. During this time frame, we were subjected to the sales pitches of half a dozen folks and I wound up buying another Mask (this time is was a Bigger Mask for 1000 Shillings). I guess I'm getting good at Bargaining !! We Popped Open the Roof of the Mini-Van before we entered the Park. This gives the Tourists an uninterrupted view of the Wildlife and the Scenery.
The Travel along these Dirt Track generates excessive dust. This might affect Sensitive Electronic equipment like Cameras / Camcorders etc. One must always keep these equipment in a Dust-Proof bag when they are not being Used.
We were to have a Game drive this evening. It turned out that this was to be the drive from the Entrance (to the Park) to our Camp Site that was located at another far corner !! There are some detours that can be taken during this drive to observe the animals up close. We had a Great View of Kilimanjaro. There were no Clouds obscuring the peak. I managed to get quite a few Shots of Kili with animals in the foreground. We saw Elephants, Wildebeest, Zebras, Giraffe, Gazelle and Buffalo. Now I felt that I WAS in AFRICA on a SAFARI. I felt that having 2 Camera Bodies would have helped without having to switch lenses from time to time and changing rolls. Then again, with the Incredible amount of Dust, I would not have been able to take proper care of both the bodies and their lenses. Even though Peter switched the Ignition whenever we were quite close to the animals, the van still shook quite a bit when any one of us moved. One must steady oneself almost still before taking a picture. No point in taking a blurred Image back home after spending a couple of thousand dollars. High Speed film (400 ASA or more) would undoubtedly help. But if you plan on any enlargements of your pictures (say to a 20 x 30 Poster), stick with a film speed of 100 ASA or lower.
We observed a Spectacular Sunset. I shot a couple of pictures with a herd of wildebeest in the foreground against the setting Sun. This was truly the African sunset that I had seen on National Geographic Magazine and Videos. We reached Camp a little after 7 PM. We were shown to our tents. These are Permanent Tents that can sleep 2 People. They have mattresses and sheets inside these tents. One of the advantages of going with Best Camping is that one does not have to pack in a Sleeping Bag.
September 6, 1998
Went to bed last night around 9 PM (Since we were to leave Camp at 6:30 AM for an early morning Game Drive). By the time I got used to the ambient noises (Wind Blowing against the tent, Animal / Bird / Insect Noises, leaves Dropping from Trees Above on to the Tent etc.) it was 1 AM ! Slept for around 5 hours. On the breakfast Table, the cook informed us that an Elephant had been scavenging around 1 AM. A lost Photo-OP ? My Camp-mates think not !!
After a Cup of tea we left for the morning drive. Took a few shots of the sunrise and its effect on Kili's Peak. After driving for a Couple of Kilometres, we spotted a single elephant. Must've been the one that was probably disappointed at our Camp last night.
The Plains around Amboseli are beautiful in the Morning. While the eastern side of the plain is bathed in sunlight, the sky over the western plains still retains the Blue/Grey of the dawn. Makes for a Great Photograph. We spotted a few more animals and birds (refer to the Photo list) (3rd roll). One of the other drivers had told peter (our driver) that a lion was spotted in the vicinity. We were off in pursuit. On the way we spotted hippos lying in a small pool. None would oblige us by coming out and posing !! We drove all over in our search for the elusive King of the beasts. When we gave up and started our return to camp, we spotted a herd of elephants. We got as close as 100 metres. Off-road driving is prohibited and hence we could not go any closer to these magnificent creatures. We all took a couple of pictures. Some of the larger elephants notices us presence and started trumpeting indicating a sign of discomfort (in our presence) especially since they had 2 young ones. We left them and drove back to Camp. Breakfast was served on our return to Camp. Being a Vegetarian, I nourished myself on Toast, Butter, Baked Beans and topped it off with some coffee.
Our Second drive of the Day commenced at 10 AM. We drove to a nearby Masai Village. Here for a fee of Ksh 500 one can visit the Village and take unlimited pictures of the people. The Masai do not like their Pictures taken otherwise. Smart move by the Masai. An example of commercialism meeting Culture. (Though I'm positive that the Culture is the loser in this process) How else can you explain a Masai wearing a Money Belt (the tourist Type) under his Masai Clothes or the fact that a Bunch of Trousers and Shirts were left to dry on the walls of one of their Huts !
The Guide (a Masai) took us around the Village. The Huts (made of dried Cow Dung) are arranged in a Circle. Inside this large Circle of Huts is a Smaller Circle made up of thorns and branches. Inside this smaller circle the cattle and sheep are penned for the night. Four Families comprising of 150 + members live in about 25 Huts. They showed us ways of making a Fire (the natural way), did a Masai dance (done to commemorate a lion kill) and (of Course) tried to sell us various trinkets. A word of advice to avid Shoppers. Whatever is quoted is a fool's Price. (i.e.; Only a fool would pay that) Start your Bargaining at 10 % (YES, TEN) of the Quoted Price.
Their dresses (men and Women) are quite colourful though. Took a bunch of pictures with an Enhancing Filter (to bring out the reds and oranges) with Kilimanjaro in the Background. Drove from the Masai Village to the Longwye Swamp. Saw Herds of Elephants, Zebras too numerous to Count and assorted small Game. This Swamp is outside the Lodge (Amboseli) Area. It was about 10 Kilometres from our Camp. On our return to the Camp observed numerous air Funnels (Tornadoes ?) kicking up (and subsequently dying out) all over the plains. Finally we managed to see a Hippo Standing UP. Took some pictures of that and eventually returned to Camp around 1 PM. During the evening drive, the driver was planning to go in search of the elusive lion. Had Lunch (Potatoes, Some Vegetable Stew and Salad). Since it was Just around 2 PM, I decided to have a siesta before the 4 PM game drive. Finally did get to use the Long Drop.
Toilets in these Parks (especially in Camp grounds) are usually deep pits dug in the ground and covered up except for a bunch of small Holes. (about 6-8 inches in diameter) Tin sheets are then constructed around each of these holes in the ground, so as to guarantee privacy. All of them even have a door with a lock. These are the Bathroom facilities one gets to use in the Campgrounds. Although Toilet Paper is available in these Camps, it is NOT to be taken for Granted. I carried my OWN Roll. Since these Pits are at least 10 Feet Deep, the name Long Drop.
(Sorry, couldn't resist explaining)
Had a Good siesta. After a Cup of tea, we departed for the evening game drive and to search for the Lion. Spotted a bunch of Giraffes (7 Adults and 3 Young) quite close. After what seemed an eternity in our lion search, we came upon a small herd of elephants in a small swamp. Trying to take a NATURAL Mud Bath. There was a Baby Amongst them and that proved to be main attraction. The Baby Elephants are ADORABLE. We drove further and spotted lesser and greater flamingoes. I thought the lake was Amboseli lake. The Driver (Peter) had a different Opinion. Based on what I've read about flamingoes moving to Amboseli, I think I'm right.
The LION did not materialize. Took a few good shots of the sunset. Today being the full Moon, it was equally spectacular. (These Pictures did come out well)
Unfortunately Kili was under a cloud cover for the entire day. Guess we were extremely lucky last evening to get a clear shot of the peak. Returned to Camp and had dinner around 7 PM. Chatted around for a little bit with my other Campmates before turning in. We leave tomorrow morning around 7:30 for Nairobi.
The afternoon Siesta did not do me any good. My Jet lag and the Ambient Sounds kept me awake till 1 AM. During this time in a Great Display of Bravado, I decided to use the Bathroom. The Moment I stepped out of my tent, the landscape was fabulous. Being a Full-Moon Night, it was well lit. Before I could walk HALF the 50 Yards to the Bathroom, I perceived some noises in the Bushes ahead and proceeded to accomplish my Purpose at the nearest BUSH !! On getting back to within 5 Yards of my tent, I whistled (nonchalantly !) so that anyone who was listening would realize my Singular feat of Bravery ! (NOT !!)
If I have to Camp out for 6 More days in Kenya and 5 More in Tanzania, I better find a way to lull myself to sleep amidst the ambient sounds, instead of staying up till 1 AM to see if the various participants are synchronizing their Notes !!
September 7, 1998
Got up at 6 AM. At the breakfast Table I exchanged e-mail Ids (The Information age equivalent of Business Cards) with my Camp-Mates. We left Camp at 7:20 AM. Before leaving we contributed around Ksh 400 (Approx. US $ 7) each and divided it up, so that the Cook was given Ksh 500 and the driver Ksh 1100. The Typical tipping rates for drivers are $5 (Ksh 250 280) per day of game watching per person. The Cook was given roughly $2 Per Person. The Cook was Happy.
Since 3 of u were heading back to Nairobi and one was continuing to Tsavo, Peter was to drive us to a mid-way point on the Nairobi-Mombasa route (A Place Called EMALI Place of Wilderness) from where the Nairobi bound folks would hop into another Van (waiting for us at Emali) while peter continued to Tsavo.
We had to drive through Amboseli (we had tented on the Far end of the entrance to the park) to go to Emali. The Number of elephants I saw overwhelmed me. I shall remember this for a long time. The drive for the most part was scenic. It reminded me of roads stretching in a straight line for miles on end. The Dirt Tracks (which Pass for roads here) were just that. Since we were in a Hilly area, once could se these tracks stretch all the way to the top of a hill before dropping off. The Vast Expanse on either side of these roads was plains, Masai People tending Cattle and Occasional Wildlife.
I was sitting in the back (over the wheels, but in the centre of the Bench Seat). The Agony started from the time we left the park entrance till the time we reached Emali. Peter tried his best to avoid the major bumps by slowing down appropriately. But when 90% of the road (the Track) is full of Holes (calling them Potholes would be an Insult) there is little one can do. It was probably similar to riding a Camel or a Horse (Bare-Assed). When I finally caught sight of the paved Nairobi- Mombasa road near Emali, my joy was indescribable. (Agony and the Ecstasy No offense to Graham Greene would briefly sum up this ride)
I don't have a Problem with the Parks authority not paving the roads inside the Game parks. The least they can do I develop roads between parks and between parks and cities. If they continue to disregard this issue, then it is only a matter of time before the goose that lays the golden eggs is killed. (Tourism is the Principal Foreign Exchange earner for Kenya). The Option of flying between parks or between parks and the Cities is just for those 'Conde Nast' Travellers. Not for the average folks who form the bulk of tourism to this country.
On reaching Emali, we thanked Peter for being a Good Guide and Game driver. We then departed for Nairobi. My Exhilaration on travelling on a paved road, prompted a short Nap (30 Minutes) on the ride back to Nairobi.
We reached the Best Camping Offices around 12:30 PM. Chatted with Shiraz (the owner) before picking up my suitcase and heading to the 680 hotel. For the money I pay (US $45/Day), this is the worst place I could be in. There is no Fan or Air-Conditioner in the room. The Wash Basin (Sink) takes ages to drain (it gets flooded easily) and the Shower Stall has water dripping from the Shower Stall of the room above !!! The Only reason people choose this Hotel is for the Central location. One reason for the location could be because it is run by the Government. Either way, take this as a last resort.
The Hotel Management and the Tour Operator strongly advised me to keep all my valuables (Camera /Passport /Money /Air Tickets etc.) in the Safety Locker Provided in each room at no extra charge. I was also advised by the locals the being cheap (by not taking a Cab after 6 PM) would very likely not ruin my Vacation. And the Owner of one of the bookstores I visited, told me to remove my watch and put in my trouser pocket lest I present an attractive target to muggers. This is for a 17 Year old Seiko Watch with a NEW Strap. All of this in the City Centre. I was also told to Carry only Credit Cards and no Cash Whatsoever on my person.
After locking up my stuff in the safe, I strolled for a little walk (it was around 3 PM) to the Thorn tree café. Returned to the hotel around 5 PM. The Drive over the mud Tracks (to Amboseli and Back) had put a fine layer of dust on my Body, the Bags I carried and Especially the Camera Equipment. Since restaurants don't serve dinner till 7 PM, I spent the ensuing 2 Hours, cleaning the dust off all of my Possessions. Had the Hotel Bug Spray my room before I left for dinner. walked 400-500 Yards to the Minar Restaurant. As this was the first Proper Meal since the day before I left New York City (Sep 2, 1998) I decided to have a Go at it. In spite of all my eating, the bill came to Ksh 720 (US $ 12.50). Pretty Cheap when you consider the amount and the quality of food I had (Name/Address of the Restaurant) On stepping out o the restaurant, I had the Guard hail a Cab for me, to take me the 500 Yards to the Hotel. The Fare was KSH 200 ($3.50) The Guard and the Taxi driver exchanged a Short/all-knowing Guffaw. I presumed that this was somehow related to the dumb 'tourist' taking a Cab ride for 500 Yards. If so, I was not about to let my ego takeover on the issue of safety. I reached the Hotel Safely !!
Wrote some Post Cards to my friends before turning in.
I leave the Hotel around 9:30 AM tomorrow for the drive to Mount Kenya.
September 8, 1998
Had a much better sleep last night. (Probably getting over the Jet lag). Since the GPO opens at 8 AM, I decided to mail the Cards I had written to friends and family. I followed this up with a visit to a chemist (Pharmacist) to get a Mosquito Repellant. (The Incense Burning type, as opposed to the Body or room Spray). Nairobi is extremely lively even at 8 /8:30 AM. Almost every Shop is open and bustling with activity. Returned to the Hotel for breakfast (which is included in the room charge) and packed up stuff for the Mt. Kenya / Samburu / Masai Mara Trip. The Shuttle finally arrived at 10:15 AM. Concepts of time are quite different from the western notions of Keeping time. (I shouldn't be Complaining about it. The Same thing happens in India)
Dumped my Suitcase the Best Camping Offices, bought an extra Bottle (3 Litre) of water, gave my return Air ticket for re-confirmation (they'll do it for you) and prepared to leave for Mt. Kenya. Initially I was to be accompanied by 2 Dutch Couples in a 9-seater mini-van. At the last minute we were joined by a couple of medical students from France. 7 People in a van was a pretty tight fit. We'll probably be getting in each other's way during Photo Opportunities.
As one of the Dutch Couples will be leaving us after Samburu, we'll be able to manage the rest of the Safari, without Interfering in each other's picture taking. (As it turned out, we got along quite fine. There was no problem whatsoever)
We passed a number of small towns along the way. The road was Good. Around 1 PM we pulled into a tourist trap area for our picnic lunch. The Shopkeepers out there were none too pleased with me for not showing any Inclination to Purchase trinkets. A Couple of them took a look at my Swiss Army (SwissChamp) Knife and promptly offered to trade some trinkets for the Knife. I declined. After spending an hour there, we left for Naru Moru located at the foot of Mt. Kenya. We were to spend the night in a Hotel there. We arrived at the Hotel around 3 PM. The Hotel is called the Mountain Rock Hotel and was formerly known as the Bantu Lodge. It is a GREAT Place. A perfect Log Cabin atmosphere set amidst lush forest at the foot of Mt. Kenya. I was not expecting this kind of Luxury. All of them are Cottages with en suite shower/toilet and a fireplace !!
Since dinner was around 7:30 PM, we took up the offer of a local guide (arranged through the hotel) to take us around the surrounding forest (on foot) on a bird-watching trip. The Cost was Ksh 200 (US $3.50) per person and the trip was for approximately 2 hours. The Guide (John) was able to spot a lot of birds, monkeys / baboons but did not seem to have all the facts in his head like Peter (Our Amboseli Driver/Guide) did. The again, Peter (who is probably in his 50s) has years of experience as Opposed to John (who is in his 20s). I managed to get some pictures and we were able to kill some time. I was, however, disappointed to find out that
Mt. Kenya could not be seen (even on a clear day) from our Lodge. I was told we could probably glimpse it during our drive to Samburu tomorrow morning. I hope so.
Although the Brochure advertises that Mt. Kenya as part of the Safari, all we do is see Mt. Kenya from far. There is no National Park here (Like Amboseli lying at the foothills of Kilimanjaro). Mt. Kenya is merely intended as an Overnight Stop. Nothing More. The Lodge arranges treks for people wishing to Climb Mt. Kenya. All equipment can be rented here. (e-mail/Phone/Address)
All the members of our group met an hour before dinner at the bar and got to know each other better. At dinner, the menu (save for fruit salad) for completely non-vegetarian. When I explained to the waiter that I do not eat meat, the cook prepared some minestrone soup and some spaghetti for me. My travel companions found it extremely hard to believe that one could live on Vegetables alone and started a round table discussion on the most odd things (needless to say, meat related) they have eaten in their lives. They ranged from Dogs/Cats, to a rooster's Crown to Shark Soup !!! After dinner I returned to my room to update my diary before turning in. I lit up a Coil of the Mosquito repellant before I went to bed. Hope it helps me sleep better
Wrote some Post Cards to my friends before turning in.
I leave the Hotel around 9:30 AM tomorrow for the drive to Mount Kenya.
September 9, 1998
After breakfast, we left the Lodge at Nanyuki around 8:30 AM. After a Couple of Kilometres we were able to Spot the peak of Mt. Kenya without any clouds. We pulled to the side of the road to take our (obligatory) pictures. Then we set off towards Samburu. After driving around 10 Km or so we reached the Equator. There is a Sign Post on the Equator that Proclaims it as such. Along with the altitude (6900 metres approx.) and the town (Nanyuki)
We were treated to a demonstration of water flows on the southern, northern sides of the equator and at the equator itself. It flows clockwise in the Northern Hemisphere / Anti-clockwise in the Southern and drops straight down at the equator. Pretty Cool stuff. The Demonstrator of this experiment will also sell you a Certificate costing K. Sh 200 (US $ 3.50) indicating that you were at the equator on this Day. I took some pictures from both sides of the equator but did not buy the certificate. In simple terms, Nairobi is south of the equator while Samburu is North of the Equator. We set off towards Samburu with a couple of stops en route to pick up supplies for our
Stay at Samburu (Food / Coal etc.) The road from Nanyuki to Samburu is quite good. Well paved and passing through lots of farms set amidst lush valleys. Quite Picturesque. The Last Major town before Samburu is Isiolo. After this the road reverts to its usual self (Horrible). Isiolo has a lot of People from Somalia and is at least 50% Islamic. They have apparently transported their civil strife into Kenya as well. We were told that they have robbed tourists just to make a living. They haven't shot / Killed anyone, YET! Before leaving Isiolo, John (the driver) told us to hide our wallets and cash. Though we all followed his advice, I was a bit perturbed. The Kenyan Army is Providing a whole lot of people to police the park and its environs. Not a very comforting feeling.
The road from Namanga to Amboseli was a pure Mud track and the driver (Peter) drove slowly over the bumpy road. The road here (called the trans-african!!!) is strewn with rocks / stones / pebbles and bumps. Due to the security issue, our driver (John) was Ayrton Senna for the Day !!
Thankfully, I was sitting alongside him. Helped me marginally, perhaps (than sitting in the back over the wheels!). Once inside the park, it is the mud road with the usual Bumps. (which is not too bad) We reached Samburu around 1 PM. Loitered around the Camp for a while, until lunch was served around 2 PM. Since the game drive was to start at 4 PM, I decided to sneak in a short siesta.
We left for our evening game drive a little after 4 PM. Saw a pair of reticulated Giraffe quite soon. This Species is unique only to Samburu. Since there were 7 of us in the van, John stopped for a while at each of the wildlife sightings to enable all of us to take pictures. Spotted a couple of smaller mammals and drove along the river bank for a while. Saw a Solitary Crocodile taking a siesta. As it was on the far bank, I did not bother taking a picture. Even a 300 mm zoom doesn't help. We drove a bit more (quite randomly, it seemed to me) and finally spotted a group of elephants in the distance. Though I had my fill of the Grey Mammal at Amboseli, when we reached the Elephants, they were quite CLOSE to our Van. Not More than 20 Feet. As a result, I snapped some more Elephant Pictures. We did not see any animals after that and returned to our camp. I was not too thrilled about this game drive. I guess Peter and Amboseli have spoiled me!!
We are to have 3 Game drives tomorrow. I hope I get to see more of the Big Five (Apart from the 2 I've seen so far Elephant and Buffalo) The Other Three being Lion, Leopard and Rhino.
September 10, 1998
Had difficulty sleeping last night. Had to get used to the new Ambient sounds. We left for the Morning Game drive around 7 AM. Though we drove for 2 Hours, we did not spot a Lion (Our Primary Goal). We did Spot the Giraffe-necked Gazelle called the Geremuk. This is another Species Unique to Samburu. A Wonderful Product of Evolution. Also Spotted a Zebra with Much Narrower Stripes than usual. (?) This Species is again unique to Samburu. Over the past 2 game drives, we have managed to spot those species native to Samburu. We returned to Camp around 9 AM for breakfast and a short rest before setting off again around 10 AM for the second game drive.
This was to be an exclusive Lion Search drive. After an hour or so of futility, we gave up and went to a Samburu Village. The Samburu and not as colourfully dressed as the Masai. Further, their houses are made up of odds and ends (Plastic sheets / Cardboard / Cowdung the type you can find in an east Asian Shantytown) instead of Pure cow dung as the Masai Houses. I did not feel like forking another Ksh 500, so I opted to stay in the Van. While my 6 other Campmates spent an hour visiting the Village, I day-dreamed a bit. Nothing focused / note-worthy or Spectacular ! Returned to Camp around 1 PM. Lunch was done by 1:30 PM. Tried to have a siesta till the next game drive at 4 PM. My tent was like a Furnace and no breeze was blowing in the direction. After trying to catch a sleep for half-an-hour, I gave up. Cleaned the Camera and the Accessories. Despite one's best efforts, a fine layer of Dust seeps into everything. Expensive equipment like Cameras / Binoculars should be frequently dusted.
We left for our final game drive at 4 PM Drove along the river bank for a while. Spotted a Big Crocodile sunning itself and a couple of Hippos cooling off (by staying submerged). The Main Purpose was again, SIMBA. (Swahili for Lion) We did not see any. On our return to Camp, we spotted a couple of reticulated giraffes (took some Insurance Shots) and a Good sunset. Unlike the Sunset at Amboseli, where the sun descended on the plains, the sun descended between a pair of hills at Samburu. Hope all of them Come out well. Even with engine shut off, the movement of people (in the van) does cause a bit of shake. A high shutter speed (125 +) should hopefully solve any Camera Shake Problems. Even with Shutter Speeds of 30, I did not get any Blurry Pictures.
Apart from these Occasional good things, the Samburu trip wasn't great. I don't think People should travel all the way here just to spot 2 or 3 Reticulated giraffes or Geremuks. Maybe Aberdare would be a better Option, since animals come to the salt lick (where the lodge is situated) at dusk and throughout the night. Animal watching (from the Comfort of your Lodge) starts in Aberdare at Dusk and continues all Night. (Of Course, one must Stay at the ARK to experience this)
A word of advice. Most Campers on Safari (with the exception of yours truly and the French Duo) wear the Mega Boots thinking that they are going to do some Mega trekking in the Parks. Think Again. These Boots are quite heavy and quite unnecessary as one is not allowed to step outside the safari an during a Game drive. A sensible Option would be to wear Simple (and light) walking shoes or Sandals which would be quite comfortable in the Hot weather. If possible, bring in a lot of wet tissue / wipes. These are quite handy to get the grime/dust off one's face. (especially after a game drive)
For the first time, we had a full Vegetarian dinner. Rice with some Vegetable Curry. I managed a quite filling dinner. Since the long drop aren't great, IF one can control one's metabolism to not produce any waste (digest everything) one wouldn't have to visit these.
We leave early tomorrow for Lake Nakuru.
September 11, 1998
Left Samburu around 7 AM. Reached Isiolo around 8 AM. The drive from Samburu to Isiolo did not look too bad this time around. Maybe I had begun to expect the worst and hence was not affected !! After a brief refueling stop we headed towards Lake Nakuru Passing the Equator again at Nanyuki. After Naro Moru, we left the Good Paved road and took a dirt track for around 30 minutes till we joined the B-5 highway. This is a Shortcut routinely employed by Tour Drivers. The B-5 is a Good road from Nairobi to Nakuru. We were to take this road to Nyahururu to see Thomson's Falls before Proceeding to Nakuru. We were now driving through the Rift Valley and the Scenery was Spectacular. (the best thus far, in Kenya) We reached Thomson's Falls around 11 AM. The Falls looked good. Scores of Hawkers make the approach to the falls nearly impossible. After Spending 20 Minutes there we proceeded towards Nakuru (50 Kilometres away) We reached Nakuru around 12:30 PM. We were taken to a restaurant owned and operated by folks originating from the Indian Sub-continent. Being a Vegan, I easily obtained some good food. It was a Pleasant Surprise. Wolfed down everything as quickly as possible. After Lunch we parted Company with one of the Dutch Couples (who were headed back to Nairobi) and drove to a local Bank since some of my camp-mates needed local currency. I went to a nearby Department Store and got some cookies. Loitered around some garment shops waiting for my camp-mates to finish their transactions. Saw some good shirts, but was disappointed to find that they were made in Indonesia.
Drove to the Stem Hotel to drop-off our Bags and headed to Lake Nakuru National Park for a Game Drive. Minutes after entering the Park, one of my Camp-mates (Frank) who was viewing through the open roof spotted a lion on a fallen tree trunk. John, the driver, pulled our van as close as possible and the only sounds heard for the next couple of minutes was the clicking of Camera Shutters. If Frank had not been viewing from the roof hatch, we would have missed a great (and I might add, a RARE) sight. Moments later a second lion with Blood stains on his face joined the first. Took around 10 Pictures. They had apparently killed some animal and had just finished their dinner. We drove around for a little while in the nearby area to see if we could spot any other lions feeding on the Actual Kill. We couldn't spot any. Drove around Lake Nakuru and up to the Baboon Cliffs. We hardly saw around 50 flamingoes. The reason is blamed on El Nino. Since Flamingoes feed on Algae on Shallow waters, the water level in Lake Nakuru (which had risen due to excessive rains) was not conducive to them. They had (I later learned) moved to Lake Baringo (further North). The Million Flamingoes that I had expected to see here in Nakuru was not to be. And I did not have the time in my Schedule to Visit Lake Baringo to observe the same.
As we continued around the lake, we spotted a pair of White Rhinos. Soon there were 5 Vans/Trucks of tourists milling around the pair and snapping away with their Cameras. Needless, to say, the Rhinos became quite testy. The Younger of the pair made a mock charge at one of the vans. That was enough for all the vans to get the message. It rained lightly as we drove around the park. On nearing the entrance / exit of the park, one of the other Camp-mates (who happened to be Frank's Wife Mieke) spotted a leopard on a tree. All she saw was a tail hanging from a branch and she yelled out to John. John Immediately Positioned the Van in a way advantageous to us Photographers. Soon enough there were 5 truck load of tourists milling around the leopard.
Since it was getting quite dark, I used my Tripod. These Pictures are among the Best I have taken during this Safari in Africa. At last, I had seen the Big 5 (including 3 on the same drive). As the saying goes, What a Difference a Day Makes !! The Failure at Samburu and the Success here.
One of the Frenchmen's Camera stopped working midway through the drive at lake Nakuru. He was quite upset at the whole thing. Anyone would be especially if things stopped working midway through the once-in-a-lifetime safari. (fortunately, he was able to fix the problem with a screw driver later that night. But he missed the Leopard at Nakuru)
Got back to the Hotel around 6:30 PM. Had a long and good Shower (my first in 3 Days) to wash the grime off and headed for dinner at the restaurant in the Hotel. I was served with a Special Indian Vegetarian Dinner. I soon became the envy of my Camp-mates due to the special food, I was getting. The driver had told the folks at the hotel that I am a Vegetarian. Good Food and a Good Game Drive.
We leave for Masai-Mara Tomorrow.
September 12, 1998
After Breakfast we left Nakuru around 8:30 AM and headed to Masai Mara. We were to go to a Place (an hour's drive from Nairobi) and wait for a Supply truck to deliver Food / Park Entrance Tickets for our Group. During this drive we passed through lake Elementia and Hell's Gate National Park. No Flamingoes in Elementia either !!
We reached the place (Name, not Noted) around 11 AM and milled about the place in a Souvenir Shop (where else ?) for awhile. Although I was interested in some souvenirs, since me and the owner of the shop could not agree on a Price, I did not Buy any. The Supply Truck arrived a little later and we soon found out that 3 more people were to Travel with the Mara with us. The 5 of us (and John, the Driver) were none to happy about this. In a 9-Seater Minivan when you have 8 people Jockeying for the sun-roof viewing area, it can get quite nasty. One was an American and the others were a German Couple. I just hoped it would NOT be a bad experience.
We Packed up and drove towards the Mara. I slept most of the way. We stopped at Narok which happens to be the last Place for Supplies before Proceeding to the Masai Mara. After obtaining some Kerosene (for the Lanterns at the Camp), we started towards the Mara. We had a Picnic Lunch on the way and reached the Sekanani Gate a Couple of Hours after leaving NAROK. On the way to the Campsite (located just outside the TALEK Gate) we spotted a Group of Lions. In our mad scramble to get some photos, we realized that we could hardly stand straight (inside the van) as every inch of space was Occupied by People or the Supplies we were carrying for 3 Days. We told John to take us to the Campsite First (to dump all the Stuff) before viewing any game. Though not fully in concurrence with our view, John complied with our request.
We Proceeded to the Campsite here I was able to get a tent for Myself (again !!). We left for the game drive around 4:30 PM. Spotted some (Masai) Giraffe and took some photos. Then we came across a Cheetah. We were the first on the Scene. By the time we finished our Picture taking, there was a swarm of vehicles around the Creature. Leopard, Cheetah, Lion, Rhino, Elephant, Zebra, Giraffe, Hippo and Buffalo. Have seen the BIG NINE (as per the Passport/FootPrint Guide !!). The Mara Landscape was awesome. I took some moment to savor the atmosphere. The endless rolling plains teeming with wildlife. (as read/seen in National Geographic Magazines/Videos). We saw more Lions and some Eland as well. I almost took half a roll of Lion Shots. The Sunset was not that Great. The Mara was Cloudy and the sun disappeared to set behind the clouds.
Returned to Camp, had dinner, chatted for a little bit with the Group before turning in. Did enjoy see the Starry Skies in the southern Hemisphere. (Did not see the same, when I visited Australia in 1997).
September 13, 1998
Last Night was quite Chill. Purchasing the Blanket from the Best Camping folks made sense (for the first time !). Guess the Plains are hotter during the Day and cooler during the Night. After Coffee we left for our Morning Game Drive at 6:30 AM. Saw a Couple of Hot-Air Balloons in the Sky. If it is going to be colder in the Balloon (due to the altitude), no sense in my taking the trip. I have not Carried any Warm Clothing. (Heck, I'm visiting Africa, not Antartica !)
The Plains of the Mara were dotted with Wildebeest. Spotted a Giraffe with her Calf. Should turn out to be a nice Picture. Spotted a Sleeping Male Lion. Probably tired from the previous night's hunt. The Cat did not Care for our presence. Though I took some pictures, I do not think they were great shots. Returned to Camp around 9 AM for breakfast. Since I had a light dinner last night, I gorged myself on Toast/Butter/Jam. (What else is a Vegetarian to do ?) After borrowing a Compact Mirror from a Campmate, I attempted a Shave. The two Frenchmen who were Brushing their teeth near the Single Tap (that all of us had to use) took turns holding the Mirror for me ! (Nice Gesture) Given the Circumstances, I managed a Pretty Decent Shave without nicking myself.
We left for our Second Game Drive of the Day at 10:30 AM. We spotted the SAME Male Lion Still Sleeping. (He will probably do that until Sunset, I guess) Took some wildebeest pictures. (The Driver had also got the Assistant Chef to keep some conversation going in Swahili while the game drive was on) The driver stopped to pick some wood for our nightly campfire. When he started repeating this with Increasing frequency, I made my displeasure clear. We had spent the better part of an hour going off the Track to acquire firewood. I don't have a Problem with them doing this on their own time. I certainly have a Problem with it, if it cuts into our game viewing time.
Most of my fellow campers were quite tongue tied on this. It could possibly be due to the Language (except for myself and the American the remaining 6 people were not native English Speakers). My Approach was from a Photographer's Perspective. Photograph as many Species as possible (or) even different members of the same species. Out of the numerous Photographs, maybe some GREAT Shots will result. This cannot be done when a lot of time is spent on picking wood for the Campfire. Bottom line, is not to be reticent about things that affect the raison d'etre of the Trip.
After my expression of disapproval, John took us to a horde of Vultures feasting on the Carcass of a Wildebeest. Quite Gory to watch them eat. Took Pictures of the Same !! Returned to Camp around 1 PM. Lunch was Fish/Chips and Salad. Had some Chips and Salad. By the time I'm done with this trip, I expect to lose at least 10 Pounds from my already Skinny Frame. Had a Good (Cold) Shower. The next game drive is at 4 PM.
The 4 PM game drive was also a let down for the most part. We spotted 3 Lions and so did 20 other Vans. For the better part of an hour, there were 20 vans (with an average of 5 people per van) milling around the 3 lions. I truly Sympathize with these Creatures. As a result, I took pictures of the animals milling around the Lions (instead of the Lions). We spotted the same Sleeping Male Lion. The Only Saving Grace (at least, for me) during this game drive was a Glorious Sunset on the Plains of the Mara. Took a Number of Shots. Hope they come out well. (They Did)
On arrival at camp, we found that 2 Groups (also from Best Camping) had arrived. One of the Group was doing the same tour as Ours (in reverse). (Start at the Mara and end at Mt. Kenya)
During dinner all of us (in our group) were of the Opinion that today's game drives were hogwash. We were determined to tell John (the driver) to take us to different areas of the Mara. (for the 2 Game drives tomorrow). We also Informed members of the other Groups to demand things rather than accept the drives they are taken to.
I'd have liked to see some Elephants at the Mara. Since they Congregate at the Main entrance Gate (which is 18 Kilometres from the Best Camping Site -- Talek Gate), the drivers don't go there. One Probably sees the Elephants on the Entry to/Exit from the Mara. And Since one is either Speeding to the Camps or to Nairobi, there isn't much time to stop for Pictures.
Considering what a disaster (except for the sunset) the day had been, I decided not to do the Balloon Safari. Didn't want to Splurge $400 and find out that the Balloon flies over an area with Hardly any Game !! If time permits, maybe I can do the same at Serengeti or Ngorongoro.
A couple of Irish/English Guys (from one of the other groups) entertained us with their observations. A nice note to an otherwise drab day.
September 14, 1998
Left Camp at 8 AM and headed to the Hippo Pools on the Mara river (at the Border with Tanzania). Stopped at the Keekorok Lodge to refuel the Vehicle. Nice Place to stay if you have got the money. Very Uppity Crowd. Would Probably feel out of place even if I had the Money to Splurge to Stay at this Lodge.
Drove to the Hippo Pools from there. John showed us the Serengeti Plains. On the endless Plains clump of Bushes defines the Border between Kenya and Tanzania ! In some areas the Mara river is the Border. Saw hundreds of Zebras on the way to the Hippo Pools. I guess one gets to see pockets of animal concentrations in different areas of the Park.
We reached the Hippo Pool area around 10 AM. All the Hippos were submerged underwater. From time to time they opened their WIDE mouths (makes an Awesome Photo) and stuck their ears and eyes out of the water. (Doesn't Hurt to Humour the Tourists, I guess !!) We Spent close to an hour at these pools. Most of us Shot a full roll of film on these Creatures. Good Place to Visit. We also saw the Old and New Bridges across the Mara River (which we had to Cross to go to the Hippo Pools). On the return Journey, John took a Short Cut (as usual) and returned to the Camp in an Hour's time. The Scenery on the Plains especially when one travels in the Mara and looks into the Serengeti is especially nice. Slept most of the way (on the return trip)
After Lunch I took a Short Nap before the evening Game Drive at 4 PM. When I asked John about the Possibility of a drive to the Oloololo Escarpment, he cited the distance as the reason for not going there. (He also said that BEST Camping does not do any Game Drives in that Area)
A number of guidebooks mention that the game is at its most prolific in the Oloololo (Siria) escarpment. They also mention that most of the Tour Companies do NOT do a Game Drive there as it far away from the Road/Park Gate to Nairobi. That's a Dumb reason. If you are going through a Safari Company, Insist on being taken to the Escarpment for an all Day game drive. Alternatively, if you choose to stay in the western end of the Mara (HOTEL ?), the Escarpment would be your Natural Game Drive Area.
We drove to the Usual Area (as Yesterday's 3 Drives !). Saw a family of Elephants. A baby Elephant (less than 6 Months old) was the main attraction. From there we went in search of the Big Cats. We spotted a Lioness looking for her Cubs. We did not see any other Big Cats. The Sunset was Once again Spectacular. Sunsets/Sunrises on the Mara are like Baby Elephants.
You never get tired (not me anyway) of observing them.
Got back to the Camp, had dinner, chatted with my Campmates and the Masai warriors (who guard the Camp at Night). We leave for Nairobi tomorrow at 7:30 AM. I sincerely Hope that I get to see a lot more game in Tanzania. Or maybe, I should lower my expectations on what I could see in Tanzania !!
September 15, 1998
Left Camp a little after 8 AM. Tipped the Cook and exchanged Cards with my Group Members. We had to enter the Mara at the Talek Gate and exit at Sekanani Gate to get back to Nairobi. John took a Short Cut to get to the Sekanani Gate. It turned out to be a Good Move. As we were driving, we spotted 25-30 Giraffes moving across the plain silhouetted against the Morning Sun. It was like a Scene from Jurassic park (Long Necked, Small Headed Creatures moving across a Vast Plain) John Pulled up alongside the Giraffes and all of us took pictures.
We reached Narok around 11 AM and Stopped for refueling. We reached another Spot about 60 Kilometres (40 Miles) from Nairobi (Where we had stopped to Pick up Supplies when we headed to the Mara) around Noon. We had Lunch there. Picked up 2 more people heading towards Nairobi (who had been with another Best Camping Group in the Mara) and left around 2 PM. The Bus (Mini-Van) now Carried its full Complement of 9 Passengers but I wasn't too concerned as I sitting alongside the driver. We had some great Views of the Rift Valley Escarpment. Would make a Great Photograph in Early Morning or Late Evening. Slept most of the way and woke up only when we entered the City limits of Nairobi.
Went to the Best Camping Offices to Pick up my Suitcase, my Air-Tickets (given to them for re-confirmation) and get some Information on Places to Visit in Nairobi. Tipped John, bid Goodbye to my Travel Companions and headed to the 680 Hotel. Got a room with a Bath. Much better room. Even had a TV ! Moral of Story. Decline rooms with Showers and take one with a Bath Instead ! The Bath Tub has a Hand held Shower so nothing is lost. After getting the Dirt and Grime Off, I headed to the Kenya Wildlife Trails Office located Opposite the New Stanley Hotel. My Trip to Tanzania was very much on Schedule and I was told that a Shuttle would pick me up on Thursday (September 17) from 680 Hotel and Transport me to Arusha (in Tanzania) Where I would join the Wild Frontiers Safari. After having a Coffee at the Thorn Tree Café, I got back to the Hotel.
Went to the Ex-Telecoms Office (located next to the US Embassy, Yes the one that was Bombed)
to make some International Calls. The Phone Cards are available in denominations of Ksh 200 and can be used on the Phones available outside the ex-telecoms Office. Phone Calls to the USA or South Asia are quite expensive. Will probably go to the Best Camping Offices tomorrow and send some e-mail to friends and family. Returned to 680.
A trio of Japanese Tourists (also Staying at the 680) accosted me on my way to Dinner. They wanted to know if I was in the Mara yesterday. They had Spotted me at the Hippo Pools, busily writing my Camera Settings (for each Photo I take). So much for being remembered. After chatting with them for a Couple of Minutes, I headed out to dinner. The Rasoi Restaurant recommended by Passport Books has been closed for nearly a Year since it went bankrupt. This Guidebook contains lots of Information that is wrong or badly out-of-date. Do your own Comparisons before you buy a guide to East Africa.
Went to the Minar Instead. The Waiter recognized me and welcomed me. After dinner I decided to walk to the 680 Hotel. Though I reached the Hotel safely, I regretted the decision, as I attracted a bunch of Hustlers the moment I stepped out of the restaurant. This despite the fact that I am an Indian and Nairobi has a Large Indian Community. So much for trying to Blend. After writing my Travelogue for the Day, I turned in. Will Probably do some shopping and visit the National Museum tomorrow.
September 16, 1998
After a leisurely Breakfast I went to the Gulf-Air Offices to Order the Special Meals on my Flight back. While they did make the request on all Gulf-Air flights, I was told to go to the American Airlines Agent/Offices (I was Surprised to learn that one existed in Nairobi) to do the same for American Airlines. (I was flying Gulf-Air till London and then taking American Airlines to New York) The American Airlines Office was located in 20th Century Plaza. (Diagonally Across from the Gulf-Air Offices in International House. Both on Mama Ngina Street) After requesting my Special Meals, I spotted a Communication Centre on the 2nd floor of the Building. I was told that Internet Access would cost Ksh 150 ($2.5) for 15 Minutes. Since it worked out to the same I would Pay in the US (at Kinko's for example), I agreed and spent around 30 Minutes sending messages to family (to update them on my welfare) and friends (to rub it in). Got back to the Hotel around 9:30 AM. After stowing my Passport and Tickets in the safe deposit Box (in my room) I took a Taxi to the Kenyan National Museum (or is it called Nairobi Museum ?). The Cab fare was Ksh 250 (one way). The Entry fee to the Museum (for non-residents) was Ksh 200 ($3.5).
The Museum has some Good Sections on the Various Peoples of Kenya (Tribes Mostly), their tools and Ornaments, Pictures depicting them in their Varying Occupations (Witch Doctor, Warrior, Unmarried Girl etc.). Some of the Leakey Discoveries as well as the Charts Depicting the evolution of Man are quite Good. The Museum also has a Shop where one can buy Africana Souvenirs. They also Provide Guides (for an Additional Charge) for a Guided Tour of the Museum. After Spending a little over an Hour, I headed back to my Hotel.
I headed to the African Heritage Gallery located Opposite the 680 Hotel. (It's actually behind some Huge Construction Barriers) I bought Soapstone Carvings of 4 (Lion, Elephant, Hippo, Rhino) of the Big Nine and some Masai Bracelets. I presumed this was a Fixed Price Shop and did not Bargain. The Cost for all my Purchases was Ksh 1100 ($20). Credit Cards (Master Card/Visa) are accepted almost everywhere in Nairobi and in Other Parts (Parks) of Kenya as well. Went to WIMPY's and had a Plate of Samosas and a Coke. Most of the Establishments are owned by People of Indian Origin. Therefore, finding Samosas in fast food restaurants that primarily serve Hamburgers/Cheese Burgers should not be a Surprise.
Returned to the Hotel and dumped my recent acquisitions. Realizing that I pretty low on Kenyan Currency, I went across the street from my Hotel to exchange $100. Since this was Cash I was exchanging, I was not asked for my Passport. The rate was Ksh 58.6 to the Greenback.
Went to Mama Ngina Street and Moi Avenue to find some Shirts/T-Shirts to take back. Surprisingly Kenya Manufactures only Formal Shirts. Most of the Informal Shirts are Imported from Indonesia. The T-Shirts (Collar less type) are manufactured here. I always like to buy clothes manufactured in the Country I'm Visiting. I'll buy Indonesian Shirts when I visit Indonesia. Not while Visiting Kenya !!
I managed to Spot a Shirt that I liked and was told by the owner that it was made in Kenya.
Though I could not find a label on the Shirt attesting to the fact, I took his word for it. It Cost me Ksh 700 ($12). Went to the Zanzibar Curio Shop and bought some painted plates with wildlife Motifs. Went to a nearby book store and bought a handy English-Swahili Phrasebook for Ksh 75 ($1.30). During my brief Shopping, I inquired from one of the Shop Owners about buying a Masai Blanket. After Informing me of a Place on River Road (that sells Masai Blankets) he asked me if I was carrying anything in my Pocket. (referring to Money) When I Indicated that I was Carrying Cash, he Promptly told me not to go there saying that by the time I turned the Corner from his Shop (about 50 Yards away) I'd be robbed of my Watch !! Took his advice and did not venture to River Road. This was during the Day around 3 PM !
Normally I'm not one to get paranoid about safety. If I did, I would not have visited these Countries (Especially after the recent Bombings) But when a local tells you not to do certain things, I have to take their Advice. (Since it is based on their years of experience, that I lack)
One of the reasons to take a Taxi to Places is the Simple fact that there are Hordes of Men Just Hanging around (just about everywhere) with nothing to do. To those folks at least, easy Money is always a Temptation. Funny thing is that on all the Parks I visited in Kenya, I left all my Valuables in my Tent inside a soft Bag that was always locked. Nothing Happened in those remote areas. Yet in a bustling City like Nairobi, I have to take extra Precautions !!
Returned to the Hotel. Packed up the Suitcase (after selecting the things I would need in Tanzania). I'm planning to leave the Suitcase at the Hotel luggage room. There is no Charge for that at 680. Packed up the Soft Case for my Tanzanian Safari. Decided to try and Indian Restaurant at the Ambassador Hotel. Took a Taxi to the Hotel only to find out that restaurant had closed in early 1997 ! (This Guidebook Sucks) Went to their Coffee Shop and Ordered Passion Fruit Juice and Vegetable Curry with rice. Wrong move on both Counts. (I guess I'm getting Careless) I make it a Policy to Stick to Bottled Drinks and Water when I am Visiting any Developing Country on a Short Visit. Since rice can be cooked Improperly, I usually avoid rice. In this case, I ordered a Freshly Squeezed glass of Juice and rice which was not Cooked Properly. I hope nothing bad happens !!
My Tanzanian Odyssey starts tomorrow.
September 17, 1998
After my Breakfast I came down around 8 AM, only to be told by the Hotel receptionist that Davanu (the Cab Company that was to Transfer me from Nairobi to Arusha, Tanzania) had come and gone ! Placed a Panic Call to Kenya Wildlife Tours. Another driver from Davanu arrived around 8:30 AM with the Usual story. (how they had looked for me in Vain; Could not locate me and the Previous Van had left; doubtful whether we would be able to make it to Arusha to hook up with my Safari etc., etc.,) This driver drove for around 10 minutes and dropped me off at another pickup point where the Original Van was waiting ! We left Nairobi around 8:45 AM.
We drove to Namanga in 2 Hours. There was no Problem with the Kenyan Immigration Authorities. We drove another 200 Yards to the Tanzanian Immigration Office. Those folks out there asked me a Couple of Questions before Stamping my Passport. Then the driver of our Van disappeared for about 15 Minutes. (No one had a Clue of where he was !) The Overall time spent at this Border Point was around 45 Minutes. We finally left Namanga around 11:45 AM and reached Arusha around 2:30 PM. The Road from Nairobi to Arusha is a Paved Road with enormous Potholes appearing from time to time. Transferred to the Let's Go Travel vehicle at the Novotel in Arusha. This Appears to be the Pickup/Drop-off Point for the Tour Operators. A lot of long-distance buses (to Dar-es-Salaam) also depart from here.
Let's Go Travel is the Local Operator for Wild Frontiers (which is based in South Africa). This tour was booked through SafariCenter in the US. Met the driver Frank and was given an Itinerary for the entire Safari along with a feedback form. An Australian Couple (who travelled with me from Nairobi on the Shuttle) also joined me on this Safari. 3 of us in a Land Rover ain't bad. As it turned out I would again get to Sleep in a Tent by myself (without Paying a Single Supplement !).
Went to a nearby Hotel (Mayfair ?) to get some local Currency. Exchanged around $40. Frank drove us to a nearby Supermarket to get Bottled Water and any other supplies we may require over the next couple of Days. Also stopped at a Cultural heritage Shop (a Tourist Trap). I bought some Maps. (Serengeti & Ngorongoro Migration Patterns) Cost me 9000 Shillings ($13). Quite Expensive. Will probably stop here at the end of my tour to pick up some souvenirs.
Drove to Tarangire which was the first Park in our Itinerary. Slept most of the way. The road from Arusha to Tarangire is Probably the best Paved /least trafficked road I've seen thus far. Reached Tarangire around 4 PM. Had our Picnic Lunch there. (Sandwiches and Fruit Juice) Started our game drive around 4:30 PM. Saw Elephants (herd of 20+), Zebras and Giraffes. The Highlight of the Trip was seeing those Magnificent BOABAB Trees. Some of these trees live for hundreds of years. Took some (more) Sunset Photos.
Our Camp was located in some remote area. We had to travel for more than an hour to reach this Place. (Was the Local Operator trying to cut corners by taking us to this faraway place instead of something located close to the Park ?) Apart from that this was a totally different Camping Experience. We were Provided Walk-in tents, Cots, Mattresses and Sleeping Bags. There was even a Chair Provided for the Long Drop Toilet !! (With the Seat of the Chair being a Hole).
Much better Camping facility compared to my Kenyan Safari. Met the Cook Costa (Constantine). After a decent dinner we chatted for a bit before going to bed.
September 18, 1998
Left Camp around 8:15 AM. A trailer carrying all our Cooking/Camping gear was hitched to our Land Rover. Took us an Hour to reach the Main road. After that we headed in the direction of Lake Manyara which was a Dirt Road. Reached Mto Wa Mbu (Mosquito River) around 10 AM. [Mbu Mosquito] Stopped to get fresh Vegetables/Fruits. Then were on our way. Skirting past Lake Manyara National Park, we climbed the Rift Valley Wall. On reaching the top we took in a Panoramic view of the Park and Lake Manyara. Drove past the village of Karatu before reaching the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. The road climbs steeply through the forest to reach the Crater rim. After taking in a Panoramic View of the Crater, we reached the Simba (Lion in Swahili) Campsite and stopped for our Picnic Lunch. After Lunch we Proceeded towards Serengeti. We reached the border between Serengeti and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA) around 3:30 PM. Reached the Main Gate of Serengeti National Park (Naabi Hill Gate) around 4 PM. (8 Hours after we left the Camp at Tarangire !!)
The view from the Observation hill (at Naabi Hill gate) was excellent. It truly lived up to its name. (Siringit Endless Plains) I bet that this be a great viewing point in February/March when the animals do the reverse Migration from Kenya into Tanzania. After taking in some Informational Pamphlets we proceeded to drive the 50 Kilometres inside the Park to reach our Campsite near the Seronera River. After spotting some Cheetahs en route, Frank (the driver) did some great driving to get us close to these animals. Also spotted some Female Lions in the Tall Grass (that is very much a part of the landscape here during these months). As we crossed the Seronera river, we also spotted some Hippos cooling off. As we started to get closer to the Campsite it started to rain. The fresh earth smell after the rains here is quite good. Managed to get some more pictures of yet another sunset despite the rain. After reaching the Campsite, we helped the Cook and Frank to set up our Tents. As I haven't done this before, it was a nice experience. Serengeti / Rains / Camping : It was a heady experience.
While waiting for dinner, one of the other driver/guides spotted 3 lions on the edge of our Campsite. They were probably looking for their dinner ! So much for excitement. Had excellent tomato soup and spaghetti for dinner. Costa appears to be a much better cook compared to the Cooks during my Kenyan Safari. Of all the Campers around us, we were the only ones doing it in Style. (we had a Dinner tent, Dining Table, Chairs etc.) The 8 hours of Butt-Breaking ride appeared to be worth it since we saw Cheetahs, Lions and Hippos. (Plus the rains and the Sunset)
Maybe we'll see more game tomorrow since we have a full day of game-viewing. Time to turn in.
September 19, 1998
Around 4 AM, I was awakened by low rumbles. On listening carefully, I identified it (which was later confirmed as correct by our Guide) as a Couple of Lions. They greeted each other with Deep roars for around 30 Minutes. During this time, a park ranger vehicle also pulled up into the Camp. (Possibly to forestall any Incidents) Though I was tempted to go outside my tent, I resisted the Idea ! What a way to wake up !
We left Camp at 8:15 AM and drove along the Seronera followed by the Grumeti rivers.
Saw Hippos in the Hippo Pool (in the Grumeti river). These Hippos were much closer to us than the ones at the Hippo pool in the Mara. We also spotted a Single Crocodile basking in the Sun. On continuing further down, we spotted a lioness with a fresh kill (a Wildebeest)
It was an awesome sight. We spotted another lioness about 50 yards away. Took my time taking pictures. We proceeded further along until we spotted a cheetah on a small rock. On seeing us, the Cheetah started to move away and then attempted to hunt a Thomson's Gazelle before giving up after a chase of about 30 yards. Then it went and rested on another rock. We waited for around 10 minutes hoping for some 'ACTION'. Since nothing happened, we moved on. We spotted a bunch of Lionesses (at least 2 of which were being monitored with Radio Collars) resting under a tree. Since Frank (the driver) did not want the Park rangers fining him for driving off-road, I was able to get just a Single Picture. On our return to the Camp, we spotted a pair of Hippos and their Calves grazing outside the water. Managed to get a Picture of their rear-ends !
We reached camp and decided to rest since the next game drive was around 3:30 PM. After lunch I tried to sleep for an hour. It was Impossible and I gave up. We left for our Game drive around 3:30 PM and returned around 6:00 PM ! That says it all. We saw nothing of note. Gazelles, Buffalo, Vultures, Waterbuck and a Pair of Cheetahs (Far away). Except for the Lion with the kill, today was an uneventful day. Am getting increasingly frustrated. After returning to Camp, we went to a nearby place for a Cold Shower. Washed away all the dirt and grime for the past 2 Days. On returning from the Shower, Frank informed us of an Early Morning Game drive (6:30 AM) the next morning, after which we would return to the Camp for Breakfast, before setting off for the Ngorongoro Crater around 10:00 AM. I informed Frank that I would like to Stop at Olduvai Gorge. The Discoveries by the Leakeys (on Human Origins) were done there and I wouldn't want to miss it. I'll probably remind him again tomorrow. We can Probably skip the Masai Village (Tourist Trap) Visit. We had a good dinner (Vegetable Soup / Rice / Beans). The dinner has been the highlight of the Trip thus far. Should Tip Costa (the Cook) well.
As regards tipping here goes my theory. If you have had a Great (Game Drive) day, (be it 2 or 3 Game Drives) then a Tip of $5 to the driver is in order. If one gets a Cook like Costa, a Tip of $2 per day is a must. It rained again in the evening. The evening rains seem to be a regular feature here. In a way, it's quite good. All the dust that's kicked up during the various Game drives is settled down. The Air is fresher in the Morning. (No Game drives are Permitted after 7 PM)
After writing my diary, listened to the BBC World News (I do carry a Short-wave radio around on my trips) and went to bed.
September 20, 1998
We left for our final Game drive in the Serengeti at 6:30 AM. We took a different route along the Grumeti river. We spotted a Pack of Lions resting within 15 Minutes. A Male, 2 Females and a 2 year old Cub. After driving for a little while, Frank pulled right up to the Bank of the river. We saw about 15 Hippos in the water. This Pool was much closer to our Camp Site than the Retima (the one we visited yesterday) Hippo Pool. My Suspicions are right. These tours Apportion the Animal Sightings. If an Individual is on a 1-Day tour, he/she will be taken to all the Game viewing areas. If the tourists are visiting for 2 Days, then some of those Prime Viewing Areas get shifted to the second Day. Most of these tours are for those Masses who call anything they see as 'GREAT'. If they drive for 2 hours and see 5 Elephants and nothing else, they would have still enjoyed the drive. I, on the other hand, want more and more variety with every game drive. True these real time events cannot be choreographed. But at least the Tour Companies can take us to different Areas of the Park during every Game drive. (No 2 Game drives should cover the same area of the Park).
I digress. While returning from the riverbank to the Main road, Frank stopped the Vehicle to let a few Elephants Pass. (on their way to the river) He lingered a little bit longer as he felt there were more on their way to the river. He was right. I've never seen such a large herd in my life. There were around 70 Elephants in this herd. Some of the Elephants made a mock charge in our direction. The moment Frank got an opportunity, he sped out of the area. We drove around a bit more and spotted a radio-collared lioness. We followed her (she was walking along the road) for a little while and took some pictures. We did not see anything else. Got back to the Camp around 9:30 AM. Had our breakfast and packed up our belongings. Costa and Frank started to load up the trailer with all our stuff at 10:15 AM. They finished around 11 AM and we set off at once towards Ngorongoro.
The drive from Seronera to the Naabi Hill Gate was Scenic. The endless plains with the occasional Kopjes (rock outcroppings) stretched endlessly on either side of the road. The long grass area on the left side of the road was black (indicating that bush fires had destroyed the grass) while the right side of the road still contained the wild, tall grass. Must be quite a sight from an Airplane (or) even a Hot-Air Balloon.
We reached the Naabi Hill gate around 12:30 PM. While Frank was Completing some Paperwork (it has to be done both during entry into and exit from the Park), I got myself a bottle of water and a Serengeti Sticker. The Money that is Spent here goes to the Conservation Fund. We set off shortly after that. After Naabi Hill, the plains contain only short grass. It is in these Short Grasses that the Wildebeest congregate in hundreds of thousands during their calving season in the month of February. Since the grass is short, predators can be easily spotted. It must be quite a sight to see 3 million wildebeest, 3 hundred thousand Zebras concentrated in this area every year. Zebras and Wildebeest and usually found together, as the Eyesight of the Zebras is not Good, while the Hearing/Smelling senses of the wildebeest are below par. Quite a Symbiotic relationship.
After driving for about 15 Minutes from the Naabi Hill Gate, we entered the Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA). Around 2:30 PM, we reached Olduvai Gorge. This is 5.5 Kilometres (3.5 Miles) from the main road. A small museum at the entrance (to the Gorge) describes the work done by the Leakeys (Louis, Mary and their son Richard) and others, while displaying some of their finds. This museum was undergoing some renovation and was expected to open next month (October 1998). A person associated with the Museum gave a 15 Minute lecture on the geological formations of the Gorge, the work of the pioneers and the current activities. The English of this Person takes a bit of getting used to. For every 10 words he spoke, I caught 5 and missed 5 !
Spent about 30 minutes in all at the museum. If one has the time, a resident Archaeologist would give a guided tour of the Gorge itself. We did not do it. On leaving Olduvai, we started our climb to the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater. We have to hurdle a number of mountains before reaching the Crater rim. We stopped on the way to get an Overview of the Crater. Since it was quite cloudy, we could not see much of the Crater floor. We reached our Campsite (the SIMBA Campsite where we had our Picnic Lunch en route to Serengeti) around 3:30 PM. After helping to pitch my tent, I decided to take a shower. The flush toilets here are of the Indian type. (No problems for me !) The shower was COLD. (we were at an altitude of 2300 Metres). However, once my body got used to the Initial Shock, the rest of my shower was allright. It was quite invigorating. Cleaned the dust off my Camera and Camera Bag and did some writing before dinner. Dinner was Vegetable Soup, Macaroni and Vegetable Curry. As I said earlier COSTA the CHEF has to be tipped better than the cooks at Masai Mara or Samburu.
We depart around 8 AM tomorrow to the Crater floor. We spent the entire day in the Crater before returning in the evening. Costa was busy preparing something after our dinner. (probably our picnic lunch).
September 21, 1998
Woke up a bit later than usual. (7 AM) Had breakfast and set out to see the Ngorongoro Crater. The descent into the Crater is quite steep. The road is worse than the ones I have seen around here. I'm quite surprised that they allow minivans to descend into the Crater. The View during the descent is quite good. Lush vegetation is on both sides of the road. Where a break in vegetation occurs, one can easily spot the Lerai forest and Lake Magadi.
The Lerai forest is a sad excuse for one. The years must have taken their toll. The exhaust fumes that emanate from these vehicles can pretty much kill anything. Concepts like Emission Control are quite alien, I presume. A Conservation area like the Ngorongoro must enforce these Immediately, if these forests / trees are to last for the next 15-20 years. They can even restrict the number of vehicles allowed into the Crater each day. (There were at least 30 vehicles that came into the crater this morning). Only 10 Permits are issued each day to view the Mountain Gorillas in Uganda / Rwanda. Some similar plan here would definitely help.
We stopped at a clearing in the Lerai forest to Pop-up our roof (to enhance our viewing pleasure).
We saw Buffaloes, Cheetah, Elephants, Flamingoes, Hippo, Rhino, Wildebeest and Zebra. The Rhino was a long, long way away. I could hardly spot it even with the 300 mm Zoom lens on my Camera. I was disappointed. The Cheetahs were really close and I was able to get some good pictures. I, however, did not anticipate one of the Cheetahs leaping across a 10 feet stream of water. Kicked myself for not getting that Picture.
We had lunch at a Picnic area near a small lake containing hippos. After our lunch break (from Noon till 1:30 PM) we started our post-lunch game drive. We went about trying to Spot Lions. After driving around for 2 hours in the afternoon sun, we reached a bunch of cars parked near some short grass. As I guessed right, there were indeed some lions (5 to be exact) taking their siesta. Not a Single Magnificent Male amongst them. While returning to start our climb back up to the Crater rim, we spotted a leopard on a tree quite some distance away. After peering though my zoom lens and binoculars for a while, I finally managed to glimpse its silhouette. The Australian Couple were thrilled to have seen the Big 5 plus the Cheetah. My singular objective during this Tanzanian Safari was to Photograph (up close) a Magnificent Male Lion and a Rhino. Neither happened.
However, I'll reserve final judgement on this Safari until my film rolls are processed. If some of the Photos come out as expected, I'll be overjoyed. (Yes, the Photographs came out as I expected and I hereby Pronounce my Overall Safari a Success !!) On returning to the top of the Crater, Frank took us to the Ngorongoro Wildlife Lodge. The view of the Crater from this Lodge is Excellent. Took a Couple of Pictures. The Ngorongoro Crater Lodge and the Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge also provide excellent views of the Crater. Most of the Upscale Safari Companies house their guests in one of these Lodges.
After travelling for so many days, one finally begins to appreciate the Human body. With the bumpy (like driving on a corrugated sheet) roads, I am amazed that my eyeballs or brains did not pop-out of their casings ! The amount of dust I have inhaled has probably gone to my lungs as well. Hopefully, a large amount must have been filtered out. All my joints are still functional.
Yes, this is a fantastic creation.
On our return to camp, I again (am getting to be quite macho) took a cold shower. Felt good afterwards. The French group that was here had made a cesspool of the existing toilets. People not familiar with using these, should probably go in the bushes.
For dinner beyond the usual soup and the main dish, Costa had baked a Carrot Cake !
I'm simply amazed by this guy. With the minimal implements he has at his disposal, he weaves magic. His tip just went up by 10 %. After dinner, toasted myself near the Camp fire for an hour before turning in. We leave at 7 AM tomorrow for our 5 hour drive to Arusha. From Arusha we drive for another 5 hours to Nairobi. It's weird, but I can't wait for this vacation to get over ! I've probably overdosed on the Safari and Travel thing. Maybe I ought to re-think my decision to quit my job and travel for 6 months to a year (sometime in the future).
September 22, 1998
Last Night was quite windy. I was almost certain that my tent would be ripped from its moorings and thrown into the Crater. Nothing happened. These tents and their moorings are quite sturdy. Woke up at 6 AM. Packed up my stuff and had breakfast at 6:30 AM. This was quite a cold morning. The Crater rim does get quite Cold. Come to think of it, it's higher than the White Mountains in New Hampshire, USA. My advice to everyone would be to pack a lightweight jacket if you are planning to Camp at Ngorongoro. I did not and it wasn't very comfortable. We packed up and left a little after 7 AM. The fog was so thick that visibility was down to a few feet. I suspect that Frank was driving using his Gut feel/Instinct, though I sincerely hoped otherwise.
After riding the road from Serengeti to Ngorongoro, this wasn't so bad. Also, since this was quite early in the day, we were probably more tolerant of the road conditions. We stopped at the Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA) gate for a brief break. I got myself a sticker of the NCA. (As I said before, the money from the sale of this stuff goes towards conservation) We continued for a while before Frank pulled up to a roadside Curio Shop. (The Place which gives him the best Commission, obviously) Though we spent around 15 minutes there, I did not feel like buying anything. We continued further and climbed down the Rift Valley Wall into Mto Wa Mbu. After a brief stop there (Costa bought some bananas for us) we continued on the ever muddy, dusty track till we reached the Asphalt road (at ?) around 10:30 AM. The road from here to Arusha is the excellent Paved road (that I mentioned earlier). We left for Arusha around 10:45 AM. We reached Arusha a little after 11:30 AM.
We stopped at the Let's Go Office, where the Australians needed to do some re-confirmations. After spending around 20 Minutes, we proceeded to the Novotel for our Shuttle to Nairobi. We cleaned up a bit at the Novotel restrooms before having our Picnic Lunch. After lunch I tipped Frank and Costa, thanked them for the efforts taken (especially Costa) and converted some remaining Tanzanian Shillings back to US Dollars. Wrote a bit of my diary before the Bus departed at 2 PM. It took us around 90 to 100 minutes to reach Namanga from Arusha. There were no Problems at either Immigration Counters. Neither the Cholera Certificate (which is apparently required if you are entering Kenya from a Cholera endemic country Which Tanzania is) nor my Return Ticket to the USA (to prove that I intend not to permanently stay in Kenya)
Were asked for.
The alternator in our vehicle broke down about 45 Minutes after departing Namanga. Fortunately, Davanu Operates a fleet of shuttles that leave every 15/30 minutes from Arusha to Nairobi. The Next shuttle picked us up. Good thing that I did not have a return flight tonight. I was dropped off at the 680 hotel around 7:40 PM. Collected my suitcase from the locker room, took a shower and decided to have dinner at the 680 restaurant. Pretty lousy food. Got back, repacked my stuff for my Journey home, wrote the remainder of my diary before going to bed.
Some random thoughts
Carrying a set of Surgical masks on a Safari would be a Good idea. This helps in preventing dust from getting into your facial orifices.
I fail to see the point in carrying Money Belts. Apart from advertising the fact that you are a Tourist, it also advertises the fact that you are carrying your valuables (Cash / Travellers' Cheques / Passport / Air Ticket etc.) around your waist. If you would not do that in your native Country, why would you do such a stupid thing in a foreign Country.
September 23, 1998
After breakfast, checked out of the hotel and took a Taxi to the Airport. The return flight (including the changeover at Muscat / Abu Dhabi / London) went quite smoothly. Reached New York on the Morning of September 24, 1998.
The Total Expenses (now that I've had time to total it all) for the entire Safari came to $4300.
(This Includes everything from the Tour related expenses, to film Purchase/Processing expenses, the Cholera Shots/Anti-malarial Tablets, Guide Books and so on. In short, anything I spent towards this Trip, has been Included in the above figure)
My Final thought on the whole Safari Experience. (especially since I went Camping)
A Good Experience that one must undergo before the onset of DEATH !!