KENYA, TANZANIA, VICTORIA FALLS, 2008

Overly Awful Travel (OAT)

Day -5, Thursday, June 19 Visas, finally
OAT recommends PVS for the Visa service - but they have a very high service fees, plus they are SLOW. When I called earlier in the year, they estimated 21-24 days and that I could send the forms in after my Inside Passage trip. It's now been 36 days. Luckily I mailed the forms in a week early from Ketchikan in the middle of the Alaska trip, or the Passport/Visas probably wouldn't have made it back in time, and if I were taking the pre-trip option leaving on the 20th - panicville!

Pre-Trip Option to Masai Mara - not taken due to extra days (4) and total cost. 25 days and $10k is more than enough. I AM doing the post- to Victoria Falls but not the extra game viewing days of the pre-trip. I should see enough on the included drives.

Day 1, Tuesday, June 24 Travel from U.S. Arrive Amsterdam
This turns out to be a hurry-up-and-wait-and-wait-and… day. With an afternoon flight, it's not too bad, but since the first flight is international, catch an 11:35 AM SuperShuttle to the airport. At least I don't have to get up at 4AM. However for the 11:35 (-11:50 "window") I don't want to make anyone wait so I'm out in front of the house at 11:25. 11:35 comes and nothing; 11:40 - nothing; 11:45 - nothing; 11:50 - nothing (and the pickup window is over); 12:00 - still nothing so I go back inside and call SuperShuttle - they tell me that I will be picked up in 10 minutes. Ha! Make that 25. Finally at 12:25, after waiting an hour, the shuttle shows up. The driver "claims" that he came by at 11:40 and called (my house phone) and no answer. Assuming he did call (????) no answer would be correct since I was outside in front of the house waiting for him. Conclusion - he didn't even come at all. At least there's still time to get to the airport.

This doesn't stop the problems however. It seems that Overly Awful Travel has a) given the wrong 6-character reservation code, and 2) also told the KLM folks that I have a paper ticket. The gate agent says that since the computer says I have a paper ticket, I have to produce it. His supervisor doesn't know what to do. Eventually (about 40 minutes later) the manager is found and he over-rides the computer and I do get to go on the trip.

Depart the U.S. for Amsterdam on an overnight flight. 7 hours time difference to Amsterdam. I'm glad it's not on LateHansa.

1KLM KL 662Houston - Amsterdam3:30 PM - 7:20 AM8:502:25

Day 2, Wednesday, June 25 Amsterdam - Nairobi, Kenya
After arrival in Amsterdam, once they find someone to "drive" the jet-way to connect to the plane, there is a three+ hour layover before the connecting flight to Nairobi, Kenya. There are no connection problems since the next flight is from the same concourse and we don't have to go through the full Customs/Security procedures.

2KLM KL 565Amsterdam - Nairobi10:15 AM - 7:35 PM8:1020:05

Arrive in Nairobi in the evening (one more time zone - now 8 hours), where an OAT representative greets the five of us and helps transfer to our hotel. For those of us who got our Visas in advance, going through Immigration is very quick; for those who want to get their Visas here (to save money), the line is very long and slow moving. However, waiting for luggage is another matter - about an hour. Dinner is on our own tonight but its very late so there's no time for dinner. I was up for 10 hours before leaving Houston, and not to the hotel until 9:45 PM, so that's about 32 - 33 hours straight with no sleep. It's going to be much worse going home, but at least that's "going home." There were 8 guests on the pre-trip; 5 more, including me, join here for the main trip. Hotel: InterContinental Nairobi (2 nights with pre-set a/c 24C - warm, not really cool).

For Kenya supplemental information, see the last parts of this file.

Day 3, Thursday, June 26 Karen Blixen Museum/Giraffe Center
After a decent breakfast we meet our Tour Director, Hoti Fortunatas, and have the option of joining in for an orientation walk of the neighborhood (watch out for potholes in the sidewalk) around our hotel (it's safe to do so) to see the Memorial to the bombing of the U.S. Embassy. The only problem, the altitude is 5296' so watch out for altitude/oxygen problems if you aren't used to it. The reminder of the morning is free for us to relax (catch up on some needed rest after no sleep on the flights) or explore at leisure.

We have lunch at the New Rangers Restaurant. We also visit the Kazuri Bead Factory, where ceramic beadwork jewelry made by local craftspeople is on display (and on sale). It's a quick stop at a Bead Factory - hand-made beads - which employs people, mostly women, from the slums. Nice workmanship, but very ho-hum. This could be skipped.

To add a touch of African nature to today's encounters with African culture, we stop in at the Giraffe Center, where we can get close to these towering animals and photograph them aand let them eat from our hands. "Giraffe Manor," a beautiful Tudor-style manor house, was built in 1932. In 1974, Jock and Betty Leslie-Melville purchased it and relocated five orphaned and rare Rothschild giraffe here. Over the years they have thrived, and now have their own young.

Last stop: we travel to the nearby town of Karen to visit the museum dedicated to Karen Blixen, who wrote Out of Africa under her pen name Isak Dinesen. The Kikuyu people she wrote about with great affection are still one of Kenya's major ethnic groups. The Danish writer, as you may know, "had a farm in Africa, at the foot of the Ngong Hills." Here she lived from 1914 to 1931. The Danish government gave the beautiful house to the country of Kenya upon its independence, and today it is a museum furnished with much of her original period furniture and open to visitors. This is an interesting peek into the lives of early Kenya settlers but other than it's historical interest, pretty ho-hum.

Afterwards, we return to our hotel for some time to relax and a leisurely dinner. (BLD)

Day 4, Friday, June 27 Overland to Sweetwaters
After breakfast, we meet our Driver/Guides in Pollman's Rent-a-Wreck and Busted Buggy 4WD vehicles. The vans are short (front row doesn't have enough knee/foot room for any except short people and Overly Awful Travel crams 7 people into my 6-passenger vehicle. (see notes later). "My" driver/guide is Felix; the other group (6 people) have Frank as driver/guide. Then we travel overland on a two-and-a-half-hour drive (make that 4 hours) through many small towns/villages to the Sweetwaters game reserve and chimpanzee sanctuary. The drive takes a while and is for a large part on dirt roads (bad, as expected, but no real problems). The scenery starts off hilly and green, but fairly quickly turns flat and dry. This 24,000-acre private preserve has views of the peaks of Mount Kenya and offers game drives into countryside many travelers never see. We check into our tented camp (6000' altitude), where we stay for the next two nights. We have lunch in camp. We then have the afternoon free to familiarize ourselves with our new environment. We can stroll to the nearby watering hole at Sweetwaters, offering the possibility of sighting some of the numerous native animals that are drawn to it - or just sit on the front porch of our tent-cabin and watch from there - good wildlife viewing. We can also choose to relax and enjoy the impressive landscape of the surrounding plains. Before dinner tonight, we get a safari briefing from Hoti. Nice night skies here. We get a hot-water bottle in our beds tonight to ward off the cooler night temperatures. Nice tent with electric lanterns styled like the old kerosene ones. High wind tonight, but no problems. Nice place, recommended. Also very highly recommended is the optional night game drive. It should be an included activity on this tour but Overly Awful Travel is too cheap to do so. (BLD) Hotel: Sweetwaters Tented Camp(2 nights)

Day 5, Saturday, June 28 Game-Viewing Activities in Sweetwaters - Chimpanzee Sanctuary Visit - Cape Buffalo

Today we can participate in our morning game-viewing excursion from 9 - 11:30 and a visit to the Chimpanzee Sanctuary. The game reserve hosts a full array of African wildlife including hartebeest, baboon, rhino, silver-backed jackal, and hundreds of bird species. The mid-morning is set aside for exploration of the Chimpanzee Sanctuary. Some 26 chimps, rescued from unfavorable living conditions by the renowned Jane Goodall and her supporters, have found refuge here in 250 acres of natural habitat. Hear stories of their liberation and recovery - like those of Poco, who was freed from a cramped cage, and Sultana, once feared by her keepers but now a protective mother. We only see 5 Chimps, however, up by the fence.

On the afternoon/evening game drive (4-6:15), we stop to see a "tame" black Rhino which we get a chance to "pet." Dinner tonight is at our camp and to bed early since it's an early start tomorrow. (BLD)

Day 6, Sunday, June 29 Overland to Amboseli National Park - Game Drive
After breakfast, we travel back to Nairobi for lunch, and continue overland to the Kenya/Tanzania border at Namanga then turn towards Amboseli National Park in the shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro. We have a boxed lunch while en-route.

Our van has been having "almost flat" tire problems all morning and Felix has to stop "at every other service station" to put more air into the tire. He finally dumps us out near Namanga and goes off for an hour to find someone to repair the tire. Now we head off through an almost barren area for the multi-hour drive to Amboseli. We (our van) was about 3 km from the Amboseli entrance when Felix gets a call that the second van which is well behind us has totally broken down. The best we can do is go on (there's not really enough room for us, much less others) and get to the lodge, then Felix will go back for the other, stranded, passengers (who had, by then been sitting out in the middle of nowhere for several hours). They tried calling ahead to the lodge to get someone to come for them, but the power was shut down for the afternoon (conserve electricity) so the phones there weren't working. They also tried calling back to Namanga for assistance, but the people there saw a chance for big $$ and made the mistake of setting the price way to high. So the only option was for Frank to sit out there and wait for a replacement van to come all the way from Nairobi … on a Sunday. He, himself, finally got to Amboseli about 1:30 AM. This means that both of our two vans have had major problems in the same day. So much for Pollman's Rent-a-Wreck and Busted Buggy company.

On arriving at Amboseli, we enjoy a hurried afternoon game drive along the way to the lodge (remember that Felix has to go back to rescue the others). Amboseli was once a forested area around a large lake but elephants killed the trees and the lake started drying up. Only a few trees and "green areas" are left.

The park shelters more than 400 bird species. But by far, elephants are the kings of the park. Amboseli's elephants, which are said to be among the biggest in the country, are fond of the swamps, where they share the cool waters with the hippos that hide beneath the papyrus. Amboseli is also home to a large resident population of wildebeest and Burchell's zebra. We arrive at the hotel close to dinnertime. Hotel: Serena Amboseli Safari Lodge (2 nights).

Day 7, Monday, June 30 Game Drives - Maasai Village Visit
Today, we begin our exploration of the varied environments of the Amboseli ecosystem, from the desert-like pan to lush swamps. We rise early for coffee and tea, and then head out on an early-morning game viewing drive (6:30 -9) to catch wildlife at its most active. Morning is often the best time to glimpse the majestic snow-covered flat top of Mt. Kilimanjaro (lost in the distant haze), which forms a memorable backdrop to today's explorations. Almost immediately we see 3 of the "big 5" all in one area: Lion, Cape Buffalo, and Elephants. A few of the lions make a half hearted chase of one Cape Buffalo which wanders a bit "astray" from the rest of the herd. However the lions have apparently eaten recently and give up the effort fairly quickly. We return to the lodge for a late breakfast.

In the late morning, we visit a local Maasai village where we have the unique opportunity to see how these pastoral herders continue to live much as they have for centuries. They also have an "open air market" to do a real hard-sell on us to buy all their crafts. We see how the houses are constructed, how the hierarchy of a village is set up, and the young women and men demonstrate a dance for us. After lunch and time to relax, we head out into the late afternoon sunlight for another game-viewing drive (4-6:15). The "highlight" is watching two lions "having sex" which they do at fairly regular 20 minute intervals for 3-5 days. The Lioness is totally in charge of the timing. We also see families of giraffe, herds of zebra and. Because Amboseli's abundant elephants are tracked almost constantly by researchers, they largely escaped the ravages of 1980s poaching. Here, we are apt to see some older "tuskers" lumbering almost delicately before the backdrop of Kilimanjaro. We see the abundant bird life - from the colorful little lilac-breasted roller to the comical guinea fowl to graceful hawks and eagles. We have dinner back at the lodge. (BLD)

For Tanzania supplemental information, see the last parts of this file.

Day 8, Tuesday, July 1 Overland to Tarangire - Game Drive
After breakfast, we leave at 7:30 drive to the Kenya-Tanzania border at Namanga by 10:15, where we clear customs formalities. We change vehicles (good riddance to those Pollman's things) into much nicer RangerSafari vans and continue to the town of Arusha, Tanzania. Although we say good-bye to our Kenyan driver-guide and meet our Tanzanian driver-guide (ours is Elibariki; the other is Mohammed), Hoti remains with us as we continue our explorations in Tanzania. We have a very nice lunch at a local restaurant in Arusha. There's also a visit to the local Native Cultural Center (shopping for crafts) where we can also get some of the Tanzanite gems (recently upgraded from Semi-precious). From Arusha, we drive toward Tarangire National Park, Tanzania's third-largest national park. We stay outside the park, arriving at our lodge at approximately 6:30pm, and (don't) have a chance to join Hoti for an elective nature walk before dinner - not that there is anything to see or do around here. The tents are satisfactory and the main building is decent, but it's very boring. The only thing to see is Lake Burunge in the far distance. The site runs by solar power (power is turned on only at night). Unfortunately, when they do finally turn the power on, the set of tent/cabins we are assigned to are all on one side of the camp where the power doesn't work (tonight). So we have to move to the other side/wing in the dark (escorted by the Maasai Warriors since this is not a protected/fenced area and there could be almost anything out there in the dark). Hotel: Lake Burunge Tented Camp (2 nights) (BLD)

Day 9, Wednesday, July 2 Game Drives
Today we will enjoy a full day game-viewing drive in Tarangire National Park. We pack a picnic lunch. Then it's a 1.5 hour drive to Tarangire (and we have to come back the same way!) With nine distinct vegetation zones ranging from grassland to woodland, from deep gully vegetation to scattered rocky hilltops, Tarangire offers a diverse geological landscape as well as diverse wildlife, including an extraordinary concentration of bird life. Bulbous baobab trees dot the landscape and the valley of the Tarangire River and Lake Burunge dominates the entire scene. Tarangire is teeming with an amazing diversity of exotic flora and fauna including elephant, lion, leopard, and buffalo. Each of our driver-guides has extensive knowledge of the behavior of the great animals. Elephants are plentiful here, traveling in larger herds than are normally seen elsewhere in East Africa. No big cats of any kind - in fact not much at all except monkeys and birds.

We see lots of Weaver bird nests - the male builds 3 nests and then tries to coax a female into one of them. Typical female - she goes for the house rather than the husband.

At lunchtime, we pause at a scenic spot for a leisurely picnic meal, the great African wilderness as our backdrop. Then after a short game drive - has to be short since we have that 1.5 hour drive back to our Lake "Grunge" accommodations. (BLD)

Day 10, Thursday, July 3. Tarangire - Ngorongoro Foothills
We depart Tarangire at 7:45 after an early breakfast and make our first stop at the Mgangani Women's Compound. These are abused women who have left their husbands and are trying to make it on their own by selling their crafts. They take the ladies of our group to one side and "teach them" what they would need to know as a typical Maasai woman. Very nice interlude.

After lots of driving over rough roads, we arrive at Lake Manyara National Park in time for a late-morning game-viewing drive. We enjoy a picnic lunch in this scenic area, and then make a long climb as we drive up the western escarpment of the Great Rift Valley. The road can be bumpy and dusty, but our driver-guides are experts at negotiating the rougher sections.

The views along the way are sweeping and spectacular. As we ascend, the valley unfolds below us and we can even see Lake Manyara stretching in the distance. We arrive at our lodge (beautiful room - best so far) with time to relax before dinner amidst the lovely Ngorongoro Foothills. Fire in the fireplace tonight. Altitude is about 6000' (BLD) Hotel: Tloma Lodge (2 nights)

Day 11, Friday, July 4 Ngorongoro Foothills - Guided Trail Walk - Karatu Village and School Visit
We take an early-morning walk before breakfast this morning to catch birds at their peak We also visit a local family to see how they are building a new house and how they live. There's a long walk up and down a long steep hill to see a brick factory, then on into a village along trails through a coffee plantation and the cool forest to a hidden waterfall, in search of more birds and other wildlife.

After lunch at the lodge, we have some free time and then take a short trip to the village of Karatu, the area's major market town and gateway to the African bush country. Before dinner this evening, Hoti delivers a talk on the Ngorongoro Crater Caldera, which we visit tomorrow. (BLD)

Day 12, Saturday, July 5 Coffee Roasting Demonstration - Overland to Ngorongoro
Enjoy a coffee-roasting demonstration after breakfast this morning before we leave. Our first stop is a visit to one of five schools depending on individual school schedules. Each one is supported by donations from the Grand Circle Foundation. We always receive a warm welcome from students - the older kids are eager to practice their English with us - and we are sometimes even serenaded with song. If we wish to contribute to the school, a donation may be made through the Principal of the School. (Gifts of pencils and other school supplies as per Barb's request, plus some donation from me - not given directly to the kids, but to the Principal for a "fair" distribution. I also add some US$. This is much as I did to the Grandmother of the children on our local stop on my Russia trip.) Then we make our way the Ngorongoro Crater Caldera where we will have a late lunch at our lodge. Be prepared for some remarkable views down into the crater caldera. The caldera of Ngorongoro marks the ancient walls of a collapsed volcano, which was probably once the size of Mt. Kilimanjaro. Today the completely enclosed circular crater caldera is some twelve miles across, with steep walls of over 2,000 feet. We are at an altitude of approximately 7,546 feet above sea level, the highest point on our trip. After our time on the lower plains, the cooler air here is very refreshing. Hooray! (BLD) Hotel: Ngorongoro Serena Lodge (2 nights)

Day 13, Sunday, July 6 Game Viewing
Early this morning we descend 2,000 feet to the crater caldera floor (now only at 1 mile altitude) to explore this natural zoological park, and observe an extraordinary variety of wildlife: elephant, rhinoceros, lion, hyena, zebra, wildebeest, Thomson's gazelle, reedbuck, and buffalo. The lovely crested crane (similar to a peacock) can be found in great profusion here. The balance of predator and prey in this extraordinary ecosystem is so precise that animals seldom leave. Our exact route is decided on the spot by our expert safari guides, depending on where the animals are. We have a picnic breakfast down in the crater caldera, and return to the lodge for a late lunch. Enjoy the afternoon at leisure. The views from our lodge are outstanding and there are various outlooks from which we can survey the crater caldera. (BLD)

Day 14, Monday, July 7 Overland to Serengeti National Park - Visit Olduvai Gorge - Serengeti Game Drive
We depart Ngorongoro after breakfast this morning and drive into Serengeti (Sirengit is the correct name) National Park. En route, we stop at Oldupai Gorge (known more familiarly as the "Olduvai" Gorge). It was here in 1959 that Louis and Mary Leakey discovered the fossil fragments that led them to a new understanding of human evolution. They developed the theory that this gorge was the home to Homo Habilis, a race of early humans that survived other species to become the ancestors of all present-day humanity. We visit the small museum here, which explains the methods and findings of the Leakeys. We also get to go all the way down into the Gorge to the actual site where the fossils were found - special deal for us.

From here, we continue on to the Serengeti National Park where we stop for a picnic lunch at one of the entry gates. After lunch, we drive into the infinite expanse of the Serengeti Plain, where masses of wildlife roam a stunning landscape. We enjoy a game drive on the way into our lodge in the late afternoon. The power was out when we arrive - not back on until about 6 PM. We have to have 'escorts' to our rooms when it's dark.

The Serengeti stretches over 5,700 square miles of plains, riverine bush, and acacia woodland, with savannah grassland as the dominant environment. From our hotel, we venture out in our special safari vehicles to try and spot a wide range of wildlife species - lion, cheetah, hyena, and jackal stalk herds of gazelle, zebra, wildebeest, and impala. Comical warthog bend down on their front knees to graze and elegant cheetah rest in the shade of acacia trees after a hunt. The isolated rock groups called kopjes provide shelter to lion, leopard, and cheetah-and to the tiny rodent-like rock hyrax, closest relative of the elephant. These are scenes straight from your fondest childhood images of Africa. We dine at our camp this evening. (BLD) Hotel: Serengeti Serena Safari Lodge (2 nights)

Day 15, Tuesday, July 8 Game Viewing
We explore this wilderness area further today with a game drive from 8 - 1:30. As we start out, we see a young recently orphaned zebra walking forlornly in small circles looking "lost" - his mother was probably killed overnight. He'll be lunch for something before the day is over. The Serengeti's varied landscape of savannas, grassy plains and riverine woodlands make it one of the world's most hospitable places for wildlife, which we will likely see in large numbers.

We return to our lodge for a siesta, and afternoon leftovers lunch. We take a brief rest, then off again for another game drive 4 - 7. We head into the bush again when animals resume activity in the late afternoon. Leopard alert - which turns out to be a 45 minute false alarm … then the word comes in - Leopard for real. We rush to the site along with about 2 dozen other vans which creates a massive "Leopard Jam" and are fortunate enough to get a clear view of the Leopard lying on a tree branch. This completes our "big 5". We return to our camp for dinner (after we clear an elephant road-block as they are browsing the greenery along the road and completely blocking it). (BLD)

Day 16, Wednesday, July 9 Optional Dawn Balloon Ride - Game Viewing
This morning, we have the option of rising before dawn for an expensive balloon flight. As we float high over the Serengeti, watch the morning sun wash across the plains. The views are spectacular and the one-hour ride exhilarating and safe. After touchdown, celebrate with a champagne breakfast. PRE-BOOKED/$$PAID (and it's $55 more now)

This morning, we have the option of rising before dawn for an expensive balloon flight. Up at 3:30, pickup at 4:30 (make that 4:55). While driving to the launch site in total darkness, we almost broadside a large hippo crossing the road. A bit later, there is a young leopard sitting on the embankment right beside the road - maybe 10 feet from the van. Wow!

Serengeti Balloon Safari (pre-paid) The experience of soaring high above the vast savannas of the Serengeti plains in a hot-air balloon has become a classic way to enhance the safari experience. With a certified, professional pilot at the controls, we can glide over an awesome natural landscape that includes thousands of acres of grasslands, rivers, and woodlands. The balloon safari takes place at dawn, when the light strikes the vast plains with a golden hue. After the flight, join our fellow adventurers for a special breakfast out on the plains. The length of the balloon safari is subject to weather conditions. It should also not be seen as a wildlife-viewing safari. While the scenery is astounding, it may be hard to discern animals in the early morning light, or when they are sheltering in the brush.

4Air ExcelMbuzi Maru - Arusha9:30 - 10:220:52.

The balloon gondola is a 16 passenger one - the 3rd largest in the world. It's so large, that we board it while it is lying on its side. As we float high low over the Serengeti, watch the morning sun wash across the plains. The views are spectacular since we float along very close to the ground and the (much less than) one-hour ride exhilarating and safe. After touchdown, celebrate with a champagne breakfast. Over-rated and very over-priced.

For those who didn't take the balloon ride, there's a game drive after breakfast. Our whole group joins again for a mid-morning game viewing. We continue to explore the vast ecosystem of the Northern Corridor of the Serengeti at a pace that allows us to truly focus on observing animal behavior and interaction. After lunch at the Serengeti Lodge, we drive through a major Tsetse flies area and finally arrive at our tent camp. The first order of business is to learn the Tsetse Fly Dance, also known as the "Shoo Fly" dance. We need an 'escort' again at nights here. Tonight we relax in camp over dinner. At least the staff keeps the area sprayed to keep down the flies. Super nice tent/cabin. (BLD) Hotel: Mbuzi Mawe Tented Camp (2 nights)

Day 17, Thursday, July 10 Serengeti Game Viewing
After a cold, greasy breakfast this morning, we head north for a game drive (7:30 - 2:15) looking for the Migration. The great diversity of Serengeti wildlife is also evident here-look for buffalo, hippopotamus, elephant, giraffe, antelope, Thompson's and Grant's gazelle, lions, and in season the spectacular migration of the wildebeest - but we missed it. Chuck gets a great video of a Klipspringer doing the T-dance on the top of some rocks.

It's another "poor baby" day - we see a small dead animal in the high grass right by the road. It's a young leopard. Apparently the young leopard had made a kill of a young gazelle, then a "cowardly lion" had been to lazy to make it's own kill and had killed the young leopard in order to steal the kill.

During the afternoon back at the camp, Roz discovered that some of the wooden craft items purchased from the Maasai were colored and "polished" with some "organic material." She set them out on a table outside the tent to "air." Some baboons came by to check them out, and took a close "sniff" and promptly left. Now Roz is left with gifts for friends that even the baboons wouldn't touch.

There's a heavy 1-hour rain about 4-5 PM. Our final night in the Serengeti is spent at our camp where we enjoy a Brush Dinner outside under the vast expanse of the African skies. Brief light rain towards the end of dinner. It's the last night of the tents tonight.

P.S.: we finally see a "migration" but it's of a large colony of ants crossing one of the walkways in front of the main building. (BLD)

Day 18 (1), Friday, July 11 Fly to Arusha / Depart for the U.S. / continue to Victoria Falls
We enjoy an early breakfast and then we head to a small dirt airstrip in the Serengeti and board a small aircraft for the short but thrilling flight to Arusha. The flight is scheduled for 9 AM, but the plane doesn't even get there until about 9:20. The plane is a 20 passenger Czech L410UVP-E20 twin prop.

4Air ExcelMbuzi Maru - Arusha9:30 - 10:220:52.

We have lunch in Arusha at the Arusha Hotel and also make a "quick stop" at the Cultural Center for more shopping and to pick up any Tanzanite jewelry we had waiting for us (yes, I 'splurged.'). At lunch in Arusha, we bid farewell to our main trip companions (6 of them) who are not continuing on the post-trip extension.

After lunch (supposed to be at 1, but the van doesn't get there until 1:20) we (7) transfer overland heading to Nairobi by way of Namanga, where we clear customs and are supposed to transfer to another of the Pollman's Rent-a-Wrecks. We get through immigration to re-enter Kenya but the Pollman's Wreck didn't make it - its broken down on the way. We're stuck in "no man's land" between Tanzania and Kenya from 3PM - 5:45. Finally the replacement gets here and we have a wild ride through to Nairobi.

Kenya doesn't seem to have many traffic laws, and very few of those are actually observed. Instead, they have traffic free-for-alls. We drive in the left lane, right lane, either shoulder, and sometimes 100 yards off to the side of the (mis-named) "highway", sometimes in heavy rain. Finally arrive at the hotel about 9 - too late for dinner.Hotel: Intercontinental Nairobi Hotel (BLD)

Post trip option: Victoria Falls

Day 19 (2), Saturday, July 12 Fly to Johannesburg - Optional Soweto tour
This morning we "Lucky 7" catch an early flight to Johannesburg - up at 3:45, mini-breakfast at 4:30, off at 5:15. We make a quick run to the airport arriving about 5:35.

5Kenya Air KQ 460Nairobi - Johannesburg8:10 AM - 11:00 AM3:50.

(There's a one hour time change - back to just 7 hours difference from Houston.)

By the time we get our luggage, we barely have time to check in to our hotel for a late lunch. The afternoon is free to rest up and recuperate. Or, join an optional tour of Soweto - ok, but nothing special. We spend the night in Johannesburg, with dinner at our hotel, actually a Guest House, included. The architecture and décor is fantastic (a mix of feudal manor house, Disneyana, and African wildlife), the Owner/Host and his hostess are great, and the food is super. However its winter and it's cold. The room is 46F inside, and with a tiny radiant heater panel, even running it all night, it only gets up to 55F inside by the next morning. Hotel: Afrika Lodge (BLD)

Day 20 (3) Sunday, July 13 Fly to Victoria Falls - Walking tour of Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
This morning we head for the Johannesburg airport, where we fly to Victoria Falls.

6British Air BA 6285Johannesburg - Victoria Falls11:50 AM - 1:40 PM1:50.

Upon arrival we hit Zimbabwe/Africa procedures. There are two lines, one for people who already have Visas (us) and one for others (majority) who don't. However several men of a certain religious faith in the mid-East (I won't name it) are too "special" to get in the long line. Instead they get in ours, refuse to get in the correct line, and then take "forever" to fill out the forms and pay for their Visas. It's a very long wait. Finally we get our luggage and meet our local Tour Director: Robert, who takes us to our hotel.

After a very late lunch, we enjoy a guided tour of the falls, exploring walking trails and lookout points - each with different views. It's a bit over 2 hours for the walk. There are five main cataracts, including the most dramatic, the Main Falls and Devil's Cataract (which can be seen only from the Zimbabwe side of the falls, not from the Zambia side - a 75/25% split on what can be seen). The flora around the falls is naturally profuse: we see ebony, fig trees, lianas, and many flowering species. The rainforest surrounding the falls is particularly lush, fed by Victoria's perpetual spray. Prepare to get wet! Tonight, we have dinner at our Ilala lodge (4 nights) (BLD)

During our stay in Victoria Falls, we have the opportunity to explore one of the great natural wonders of the world. Following our tour of the falls, the days are free to pursue optional activities. Board a gentle giant for an elephant ride, take a walk with young (15 months) lions, cruise the Zambezi River or opt for a "Flight of the Angels" over the falls. A Shearwater Adventures representative will meet with us to answer questions and make reservations on our behalf. Payment can be made directly to the Shearwater Adventures representative in U.S. dollars or travelers checks. LATE UPDATE (phone call from OAT on 6/18, 6 days before I leave): VISA credit cards are NO LONGER ACCEPTED for payment in Victoria Falls. Banks are blocking all credit card transactions to Zimbabwe. I have to get LOTS of extra US$ before I go even though I "hate" having to carry lots of cash. Another bad information deal: the local shops can't take Visa card payments but we CAN pay Shearwaters with a Visa card - they send the paperwork to Boston for processing so it appears to be a US charge, not a Zimbabwe one. Lots of disappointments as to what optional trips are available.

Day 21 (4), Monday, July 14 Victoria Falls Village Visit - Choice of Optional Activities
This morning, enjoy an orientation walk of the village with our trip leader, or choose from a multitude of available optional tours.

VICTORIA FALLS APPROXIMATE ACTIVITY PRICES: (Please note that some activities incur park fees. These fees will be paid directly on site. The average cost of these park fees is $5 -$15 per person)

Zambezi Helicopter Company - US$90.00/Game Flight - US$150.00 Join us on the legendary 13-minute "Flight of Angels" or 30-minute scenic game flight for unparalleled views of the Victoria Falls from a completely unique and unrivalled perspective. This is an exhilarating experience and is a must for all visitors to the Falls. Price includes courtesy transfers from all hotels and major locations in Victoria Falls. Allow 1½ hours for this activity. (The Game flight, my #3 choice, isn't offered so I'm stuck with the shorter, very overpriced 13 minute flight.)

The Elephant Company - US$100.00 An Elephant Back Safari is an experience that we will never forget. Ride, learn about, and interact with these majestic creatures in their natural surroundings. Morning or afternoon half-day safaris are available. The game viewing can be excellent. Price includes courtesy transfers from all hotels and major locations in Victoria Falls, breakfast, snacks and refreshments. For the morning activity we depart at 7:00am and return at approximately 11:30am.

We have lunch at our lodge and time to relax in the early afternoon. We can elect alternate optional tours this afternoon, as well.

Livingstone Museum Tour - US$40.00 (Zambia) The Livingstone Museum is one of a kind in this area. It contains the most comprehensive memorabilia of Dr. David Livingstone, and covers the history of the region. The Museum also contains Anthropological, Natural History and African Culture sections. This excursion takes place across the border in the town of Livingstone, Zambia. Please bring the passport and US$ 10.00 for a Zambian visa. Transfers are done at 9:00am and 2:00pm. Allow 2½ to 3 hours for this activity. (NOT OFFERED - Zambia just recently raised the price of the Visa from $10 to $135. This was to have been my #2 preferred option.)

African Spectacular Dance Performance - US$33.00 Gather in a set-up village for what is arguably the most authentic dance show in Africa, featuring choirs, marimbas, drums, warriors' chants, and tribal rituals. The program begins at 6:00pm, and lasts approximately 2 hours. (Cancelled - only 3 people/spectators showed up for the show)

Afternoon: another flight

7ShearwatersHelicopter2:05 - 2:160:11.

Tonight we have dinner at our lodge - same menu each night, but it's good. It includes Crocodile Croquettes and Fillet of Warthog. Some of us tried to go to the evening Folklore / Dance show but were the only ones to show up (3 people) so there was no show this evening - just another example of the collapse of the economy of this country. Very sad for the ordinary people. Tonight we have dinner at our lodge. (B,L,D)

Day 22 (5), Tuesday, July 15 Optional Chobe National Park Excursion (Botswana, Namibia) - or Free Day at Victoria Falls
After breakfast our day is free. We take a full-day optional tour to Chobe National Park in Botswana. We see animals we won't see in East Africa like the sable antelope, puku, incredible bird life, and the largest concentration of elephants in Africa. The tour includes a game viewing boat ride on the Chobe River including excursions into Namibia territory, lunch, and a game drive in the afternoon where we see two lionesses chase and kill a warthog. Each part of the trip is about 2 hours. Chobe Park is renowned for its variety of wildlife and particularly the large herds of elephant that can often be seen, mainly in the high season. The safaris begin with a road transfer across the border at Kazangula (approximately 90 minutes from Victoria Falls). Our day may include a boat/pontoon cruise (seating 15 people) and a game drive in an open 4x4 vehicle that usually lasts four hours. Knowledgeable and helpful guides conduct the trips and lunch is at Chobe Marina Lodge. Drinks on the safari are included during our activities. Our day begins early from Victoria Falls, and we return in the early evening depending on the time of year. (BLD)

Day 23 (6), Wednesday, July 16 Monde Village Tour - Zambezi Cruise
After breakfast we visit a local village (Monde) for a taste of African culture. Monde Village is an authentic village in the nearby communal area, and we are invited into homes and fields to see how daily chores are carried out. OAT/Grand Circle used to support a local school, but stopped when they found out that the Headmaster was personally pocketing all the funds.

Seeing what is available for purchase in the stores (nothing) and that people have to travel to Botswana for anything, plus the fact that the local craftsmen are desperate to get US$ (hard currency), I give Robert a pair of (much used) shoes, a small calculator, some ball-point pens, a sweater, and any leftover OTC meds that I'm carrying. One couple "bought" a large "Talking Stick" (large ornate cane-like ornament) for 2 t-shirts, some old shoes they were going to discard, and an old pair of pants. Zimbabwe "dollars" are a joke and not accepted in any other country - they don't even want them in Zimbabwe. I brought home some Z$50,000,000,000 bills and saw when I got home that they had started issuing notes for 100 Billion Dollar bills. No wonder everyone wants hard currency since they can't spend the Zimbabwe "toilet paper."

In the late afternoon, we take a sunset cruise on the Zambezi River (3:30 - 6:30). Hippo and crocodile are common in the river, and a variety of African game animals come to the river's edge to drink. Sunsets on the Zambezi are spectacular. After the cruise including excursions into Zambia territory, we have dinner at our lodge. (B,L,D)

Day 24 (7), Thursday, July 17 Victoria Falls - Fly to U.S. via Johannesburg
No hot-food buffet for breakfast this morning. Hotel occupancy in the area is running about 20-25% capacity and it's particularly empty this morning. This is catastrophic for the approximately 46,000 people who live and work the tourism jobs in the area. We leave the hotel about 10:50 for the airport. The British Air counter isn't open yet so there's a wait, then when we do have our boarding passes, security isn't ready yet. Luggage check-in tags are handwritten and almost illegible. Eventually board a flight back to Johannesburg well after lunchtime to start the extremely long flight sequence to get home, and connect there to an overnight flight that leaves for the United States in the very late evening (midnight!).

8British Air BA 6282Victoria. Falls - Johannesburg11:50 PM - 1:40 PM1:508:00

But it takes 28 minutes for the ground crew to figure out how to maneuver the rolling stairs and attach them to the plane and this airport is a major international hub.

We had been promised that since we had such a long layover, the local Overly Awful Travel representative would meet us, provide a place to relax, and also a late lunch/early dinner. More broken promises - nobody ever showed up. It was a LONG wait.

Next flight - Amsterdam is on the same time (zone) as Johannesburg.

9KLM KL 592Johannesburg - Amsterdam11:30 PM - 10:00 AM10:303:20

Day 25, Friday, July 18 Return to US
I'm in flight during an extremely long day - due to many time zone changes (6 hours Amsterdam to Detroit). But why do I have to fly back via Detroit when there is a direct Amsterdam to Houston flight (2:40 PM - 6:25PM) which would get me home 3 hours earlier. It's that Overly Awful Travel company again.

10KLM KL 6035Amsterdam - Detroit1:20 PM - 3:45 PM8:253:42

At least with 3+ hours, I won't have trouble getting through Customs/Immigration, and my luggage should be there also. Unfortunately, it isn't. I'm told that I should wait until I'm in Houston to file a missing-luggage claim. One last time zone change coming up.

11KLM KL 4627Detroit-Houston7:35 PM - 9:23 PM2:4838:33

38:33!! With airport and shuttle time, 2 full days!!! Horrors!! It ranks even worse than the 37:00 it took to get home on my China trip. I file my lost-luggage claim and am told that it is "found" and en-route. It should get here either late tomorrow or possibly Sunday morning. Home about 11:30PM and straight to bed - except that it's too hot so it's about 1AM before the house cools down enough.

Day 26, Friday, July 19 Luggage

I get a call about 7:30PM that my luggage is in town and will be delivered soon. It gets here about 8:30 minus a few things: travel alarm, medium size MagLight flashlight, 2 polo shirts, and my camera which was in the luggage since there wasn't room in the one carry-on bag due to lots of crushable gifts I'm carrying there. No telling when/where it was stolen.



Later - Saga continues
As it turned out, the trip wasn't over - or at least, the saga continued.

In Vic Falls, I had checked my luggage through to Detroit - my US port of entry. It didn't get there. When I finally got to Houston about 10:30 PM, the claims agent checked and found that it had just been loaded onto a plane in Joberg. The bag was finally delivered very late Saturday night. When I checked the next morning, I found that some things were missing: travel alarm, flashlight, camera, and 2 very used polo shirts. The latter make me think that there was a "problem" in the Vic Falls airport.

At least my insurance agent approved the claim immediately and I received a check two days later.

Also when I got home, there were several messages on my answering maching from Overly Awful Travel regarding my trip to the Red Sea next year. As it turns out, they had to cancel/reschedule the trip I was booked on --- so guess what --- I used the opportunity to cancel out for a full refund (still waiting for part of that). I also deleted all (5) trips in my trip planner. So now it's just the one short trip to Central America: "Route of the Maya", that I have to survive this November.

The weather in Houston was (and still is) high 90s temps and also humidity. So at first I thought my almost immediate increase in "sinus allergy cough" problems was due to that, and of course my old age. But it kept getting worse. My local pharmacist now thinks that I may have had a delayed reaction to the Malarone meds brought on by heat, exhaustion, etc. At least that is now clearing up a bit - I even got some sleep last night (Sunday a week later).

I had been working on trip notes and photos (very) intermittently since I got home and since I was feeling better, I managed to get the pictures edited and organized.

When we were completing our basic trip at Mbuzi Mawe, one of Carole's comments was about how great a travelling group we had on this trip. Of my now 38 trips, this would definitely be one of the top 3.


MEALS: almost all meals are included except day 2 (Nairobi), and day 24 (Johannesburg on the way home). Breakfast: the usual options; Lunch: in the lodges, served buffet style; Dinner: Table service with entrée options.

Accomodations (mostly 2 night stays):
Day 1: in the air
Day 2, 3: Nairobi -- Intercontinental Nairobi
Day 4, 5: Sweetwaters -- Sweetwaters Tented Camp
Day 6, 7: Amboseli -- Amboseli Serena Safari Lodge
Day 8, 9: Tarangire -- Tloma Lodge
Day 10, 11: Tarangire -- Lake Burunge Tented Camp
Day 12, 13: Ngorongoro -- Ngorongoro Serena Safari Lodge
Day 14, 15: Serengeti NP -- Serengeti Serena Safari Lodge
Day 16, 17: Serengeti -- Mbuzi Mawe Tented Camp
Day 18: Nairobi -- Intercontinental Nairobi
Day 19: Johannesburg -- Afrika Lodge
Day 20-23: Victoria Falls -- Ilala Lodge
Day 24: in the air

Hotel: 4 nights, Lodge: 12 nights, Tented Camp: 6 nights

Tented camp: Tented camp: Generator electricity (usually dimmer lights); 2- to 5-minute walk from tent area to main lodge; no a/c; refrigeration only in main camp and lodge, not in rooms (but this is for "only" three times, 2 nights each). All three have private bath facilities.


AIRLINES:

1KLM KL 662Houston - Amsterdam3:30 PM - 7:20 AM8:502:25
2KLM KL 565Amsterdam - Nairobi10:15 AM - 7:35 PM8:1020:05
3Balloon FlightSerengeti Plains6:50 - 7:300:40-
4Air ExcelMbuzi Maru - Arusha9:30 - 10:220:52.
5Kenya Air KQ 460Nairobi - Johannesburg8:10 AM - 11:00 AM3:50.
6British Air BA 6285Johannesburg - Victoria Falls11:50 AM - 1:40 PM1:50.
7ShearwatersHelicopter2:05 - 2:160:11.
8British Air BA 6282Victoria. Falls - Johannesburg11:50 PM - 1:40 PM1:508:00
9KLM KL 592Johannesburg - Amsterdam11:30 PM - 10:00 AM10:303:20
10KLM KL 6035Amsterdam - Detroit1:20 PM - 3:45 PM8:253:42
11KLM KL 4627Detroit-Houston7:35 PM - 9:23 PM2:4838:33


TEMPERATURES etc:
KENYA (June) 73-56 / 94-53 relative humidity (am-pm) 1.2" month rain
TANZANIA (July) 69-49 not available 0.6"
VICTORIA FALLS 77-42 29 0.0

MEDICAL: Yellow Fever vaccination required. Be sure to carry proof of vaccination certificate.

OPTIONS:
Day 16: Dawn Balloon Flight (pre-booked/paid)
Day 19: Soweto Tour $ 60 (skip)
Day 21: Helicopter Game Flight $150 noon? 1.5 hrs
Day 21: Elephant Company $100 7 AM 4.5 hrs
Day 21: Livingstone Museum $ 39 Zambia 9AM, 2PM 3 hrs
Day 21: Dance Performance $ 33 6PM, 2 hrs
Day 22: Chobe Park $150 Botswana, Namibia all day
$ouch$: $472 more

For Shopping supplemental information, Click here

Wildlife Viewing:
Excellent. We see all of the "Big Five" plus Cheetahs, and LOTS of different birds.

WILDLIFE SEEN

BIRDS (88)
Malibou StorkEgyptian Geese
Yellow Billed StorkSpurwing Geese
Crested CraneWoodland Kingfisher
Grey Crowned CraneGiant Kingfisher
Superb StarlingsGrey Headed Kingfisher
Hildebrandts StarlingPied Kingfisher
Ruppells StarlingSacred Ibis
Ashi StarlingHadada Ibis
Greater Blue Eared Glossy StarlingVan Der Deckens Hornbill
Rufous Tailed WeaverSouthern Ground Hornbill
Red Billed Buffalo WeaverNamaqua Dove
White Headed Buffalo WeaverRing Necked Dove
Grey Headed Social WeaverOsterich
Golden Palm WeaverAfrican Spoonbill
Speckle Fronted WeaverAfrican Grey Flycatchers
White Back Buffalo WeaverHelmeted Guinea Fowl
Grey Breasted SpurfowlSinging Lark
Yellow Necked SpurfowlYellow Wagtail
Pale Chanting GoshawkMousebirds
Dark Chanting GoshawkYellow Collared Lovebird
Bateleur EagleParadise Whydah
African Fish EagleAfrican Hoopoe
Tawny EagleRed Billed Quelea
Long Crested EagleLilac Brested Roller
Black Chested Snake EagleCoqui Francolin
Black Backed HeronBare Faced Go Away Bird
Goliath HeronFischers Sparrow Lark
Squacco HeronGrey Headed Gull
Gray HeronBlack Winged Stilts
Greater White HeronChateterers Rufous
Lappet Faced VultureFlamingos
White Backed VultureJacana
Yellow Bulbul PloverHammerkopf
Wattled PloverWhite Faced Whistling Duck
Crowned PloverAfrican Darter
Blacksmith PloverWhite Browed Culcal
Kori BustardGolden Chested Bunting
Black Bellied BustardLong Tailed Cormorant
Cattle EgretsAugur Buzzard
Yellow Billed EgretCommon/African Drongo
Little EgretSecretary Bird
Magpie ShrikeBlack Shouldered Kite
Fiscal ShrikeD'Arnauds Barbet
Northern White Crowned ShrikeCommon Bulbul
ANIMALS (44)
LionKudu
LeopardRed Lechwe
Cape BuffaloSable Antelope
ElephantEland
Black RhinoReedbuck
White RhinoHippos
CheetahPygmy Mongoose
Common ZebraBanded Mongoose
Greevy's ZebraDwarf Mongoose
Common WaterbuckBlack Tailed Mongoose
DeFassa WaterbuckKirk's Dik-Dik
Jackson's HartebeestSilver Back Jackal
Cokes HartebeesteBat Eared Fox
Grants GazelleSpotted Hyena
Thompsons GazelleRock Hyrax
Wart HogBlue/Berbet Monkeys
GiraffeVelvet Monkey
ImpalaOlive Baboon
WildebeesteNile Monitor Lizard
PukaSkink
TopiAgama Lizard
KlipspringerLeopard Turtle


KENYA & TANZANIA 2008 Supplemental

Kenya

Kenya at a Glance Historical Overview
Some of the earliest humans roamed the land now known as Kenya. Since those primordial times, groups of people from all over Africa and the Middle East have migrated through or into the area. As long as a millennium ago, the Swahili language, which blends Arabic with African Bantu speech, had developed as a common tongue in this region. The aristocratic Hima moved in prior to A.D. 1000, establishing large kingdoms and introducing cattle herding. Bantu peoples followed, including the Kikuyu, who remain the largest single group today. Arabs sailed south from the Middle East to become a dominant presence in the coastal region as early as the 11th century A.D. In Arabic the country was called the land of the Zenj, or "black people." For centuries, the coastal area was divided up into city-states known as the "Zenj states." Mombasa, one of Kenya's major cities today, originated as one of these city-states.

The first Europeans to have an impact on East Africa were the Portuguese, who arrived by sea in the 15th century and dominated the coastal region for a time. In 1729, the Arabs regained control from the Portuguese and ruled until Kenya came under British influence. During all of this time, Arabs and Africans conducted a slave trade whose effects extended far inland. By the latter half of the 19th century, Britain had become the dominant power, drawing the borders of the newly defined nation of Kenya. The British ended the slave trade, but claimed all land outside defined tribal areas as crown land available for white settlement.

Decades of colonial rule bred resentment among native Africans. In the 1950s, Kikuyus played a prominent role in the Mau Mau rebellion, which was one act in the drama that culminated in independence in 1963. Jomo Kenyatta, the first president of independent Kenya, was a Kikuyu. Though he had been involved in the Mau Mau rebellion, he established moderate, pro-Western policies and was acknowledged as Mzee, "the wise old one," by his own people and many world leaders upon his death in 1978. Kenyatta's successor, Daniel arap Moi, continued to follow the moderate social and economic policies that kept Kenya relatively peaceful in the first decades after independence.

Kenya Today: Area: 219,788 square miles; Capital: Nairobi; Languages: Swahili (official), English, tribal languages including Kikuyu and Luo; Population (2005 estimate): 34,707,817; Religions: Protestant 45%, Roman Catholic 33%, Muslims 10%, indigenous 10%, other 2%. Time zone: Kenya's time zone is three hours ahead of GMT. There is no daylight savings time in Kenya. During U.S. daylight savings time Kenya is 7 hours ahead of New York, the rest of the year it is 8 hours ahead of New York.

About 97% of Kenya's people are native African in origin. The major tribal groups (from a total of more than 70) are the Kikuyu, Kamba, Gusii, Luhya, and Luo. Kenyans speak many regional tribal languages in addition to the primary languages of English and Swahili. Several types of craftsmanship reflect Kenya's artistic traditions. The Samburu and Maasai make beadwork jewelry, people on the coast weave mats, and Kamba wood carvers produce fine work.

The Land: Kenya straddles the equator on the eastern coast of Africa and has an impressively varied landscape. Lake Victoria is on the southwestern border of the country, with Tanzania to the south. The other features of Kenya range from a flat, bush-covered plain in the northeast to beautiful Indian Ocean beaches, scenic highlands, lakes, the Great Rift Valley, and the towering Mount Kenya.
Tanzania
Tanzania at a Glance Historical Overview
Tanzania is home to the Olduvai Gorge, the site where some of the earliest human remains on earth have been discovered. For hundreds of thousands of years, hunter-gatherer societies inhabited the area, though details about them are lost in the mists of time. More recently, the interior of the country has been occupied by pastoral and agricultural societies.

The cattle-herding Maasai are notable among these. They are known to have settled as far south as Dodoma by the early 19th century, and they live around Tanzania's game parks to this day. In the past, this tribe's reputation as fierce warriors kept away neighboring tribes and Arab traders, and neither the slave trade nor tribal warfare had much impact in their territory. Today, many Maasai proudly continue their traditional way of life with few inroads from modern civilization, especially in the northern part of the country.

Over one thousand years ago, sea-borne traders established a strong Arab presence on Tanzania's Indian Ocean coast, which includes the island of Zanzibar. Sultans of Oman ruled Zanzibar by the 18th century, and in 1832 Sultan Seyyid Said located his capital city there. Because of this history, Islam continues to be the dominant religion on Zanzibar today.

Rivalry among European colonial powers brought historic change to the area in the 19th century. Livingston and Stanley were among the first Englishmen to arrive in the interior, where Stanley's famous "Dr. Livingston, I presume" was uttered at Ujiji on Lake Tanganyika. The British made Zanzibar their protectorate in 1890. On the mainland, however, Britain yielded to Germany after German explorer Carl Peters laid the groundwork for colonial exploitation of the country by the German East Africa Company. The two countries signed an agreement giving the Germans what was then known as Tanganyika, while Britain got Kenya and Uganda. World War I, during which Germany and Britain fought intense land and naval battles in Tanganyika, ended this arrangement. Following Germany's defeat in Europe, Britain was put in charge of the League of Nations mandate for Tanganyika.

In the 20th century, the movement to end colonialism in Tanganyika took shape among farmers' unions and cooperatives. Julius Nyerere led the political party that grew out of this movement, and became the country's first president when it made a peaceful transition to independence in 1961. The island of Zanzibar gained independence in 1963, in a transition that involved a bloody revolution during which the bulk of the Arab population was expelled. In 1964, Tanganyika, Zanzibar, and Pemba (another offshore island) joined to become the United Republic of Tanzania.

Tanzania's leaders stood at the forefront of African liberation movements during the 1970s and the early 1980s. They allowed Mozambique nationalists to use Tanzanian territory for training and attack bases as they fought for independence from the Portuguese. In 1979, Tanzanian troops helped overthrow the regime of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin. President Nyerere also played a key role in the negotiations for ending white rule in Zimbabwe. Although it maintained good relations with the West, Tanzania followed a strongly socialist path in the decades immediately following independence.

In November 1985, Nyerere retired and was succeeded in the presidency by Ali Hassan Mwinyi. Nyerere continued as the chairman of the Revolutionary Party of Tanzania until August 1990. Tanzania began moving toward a multiparty system in the early 1990s.

Tanzania Today: Area: 342,101 square miles; Capital: Dar es Salaam (legislative offices have been transferred to Dodoma, the city planned as the new capital of the nation); Languages: Swahili (official), English, tribal languages; Population (2005 estimate): 37,445,392; Religions: Muslims 35%, indigenous beliefs 35%, Christian 30%. Time zone: Tanzania has the same time zone as Kenya. It is three hours ahead of GMT. There is no daylight savings time in Tanzania. During U.S. daylight savings time Tanzania is 7 hours ahead of New York, the rest of the year it is 8 hours ahead of New York.

Tanzania today is a true blend of cultures, with no one group constituting more than 13% of the population. The largest single ethnic group is the Sukuma. Other major groups include the Nyamwezi, Haya, Ngonde, Chagga, Gogo, Ha, Hehe, Nyakyusa, Nyika, Ngoni, Yao, and Maasai. The population also includes people of Indian, Pakistani, and Goan origin, and small Arab and European communities. Only 24 percent of the people live in urban areas.

Tanzania's official language is Swahili ("Kiswahili" is the name of the language in Swahili). English was an official language until 1967, and is still used in higher education, government, and business. Nearly all Tanzanians speak a local language (of which there are 120) plus Swahili and perhaps English. The urban Asian population and people who live along the coast speak Arabic and South Asian languages.

The majority of the population is literate, and about 93 percent of Tanzanian children attend free primary schools. These are significant achievements for a nation where the annual per capita income is less than $100.

The Land: Mainland Tanzania's landscape is flat and low along the coast. In the interior, a plateau at an average altitude of about 4,000 feet makes up most of the country, and isolated mountain groups rise in the northeast and southwest. The volcanic Mount Kilimanjaro, at 19,340 feet the highest mountain in Africa, is located near the border with Kenya. Three of Africa's largest lakes lie on the borders of Tanzania and partially within it: Lake Tanganyika, Lake Victoria, and Lake Malawi (Nyasa). Lakes Tanganyika and Malawi lie in the Rift Valley, which is a gigantic geological fault system extending from the Middle East to Mozambique.


Shopping
Shopping in East Africa: Crafts & Souvenirs East Africa offers many fine craft items at good prices. Traditional souvenirs include wood carvings, gems and gemstone jewelry, batik artwork, traditional African woven cloths, hand-woven carpets and mats, leather goods, Maasai beadwork, fine basketry, and excellent coffee and tea. The authentic wood carvings called mokonde are made only in Tanzania, and are prized by collectors worldwide. Usually made of ebony, traditional mokonde art depicts spirit gods, ancestors, and half-human, half-animal figures. Today mokonde has been adapted to include figures of wildlife. We can find smaller figures for less than $20. Depending on size, style, and quality, larger pieces cost from $50 to $500.

If you plan a major purchase, we strongly recommend that you research the prices and quality available at home before our trip. Be especially careful if buying rugs. Just one visit to an import shop will put you way ahead when you go shopping. This is the only way to know if you are getting a good price.

Bargaining: In craft markets and roadside curio shops, prices are negotiable. Some stores in town have fixed prices. If this is your first experience at bargaining, don't worry-you quickly find your own style. Your opening offer should be well under the asking price. The only rule is that, if you make an offer, you should be prepared to buy at that price. And remember, whatever price you pay is okay, as long as the item is worth that price to you.
Kenya, Tanzania, Victoria Falls Trip Comments


Wildlife Viewing:
Excellent. We see all of the "Big Five" plus Cheetahs, and LOTS of different birds.

Tour Directors/Driver Guides: Very good to Excellent:

Kenya/Tanzania Tour Director: Hoti Fortunatas - Very good/Excellent
Kenya Driver/Guide: Felix Kioko: Very good
Tanzania Driver/Guide: Elibariki: Super Excellent
Zimbabwe Tour Director: Richard: Excellent

Accomodations:

Tent/Cabins:

Sweetwaters: Nice lodge, very nice tent (I rate it #2 of the 3), excellent game viewing. #1 overall. Be sure to include the night game drive as an included activity.

Mbuzi Mawe: Excellent all round - except for the Tsetse flies - so #2 overall.

Lake "Grunge" (Lake Burunge): Ditch this one. After the first 3 minutes looking across the vegetation to see the lake in the far distance, there's nothing to see or do. Nice enough tent/cabins, but major power problems - we had to move in the dark from one "wing" of tents to the other when they couldn't get the power going - and even after that, the power was very erratic. Decent tents otherwise but the most basic of the three. Even worse, it's a 1.5 hour drive EACH WAY to the game drive area. Rating: bad.

Lodges/Etc.:

Amboseli: Nice enough, but overdone in the African wildlife decorations. Almost nothing to see on the lodge grounds, but not much of a drive to the game area.

Tloma Lodge: Very nice individual rooms (not connected), very good food (but eating outside attracted MANY bees. Very nice local options. Recommended.

Ngorongoro Lodge: Another very nice hotel, best room so far. Long drive down (and back) into the Caldera for game viewing but ok.

Serengetti Lodge: The best of the K/T lodges. Short drives to the game area.

Afrika Lodge (Guest house): Great architecture and décor, excellent food, and the owner/host and his hostess were great. However, in the winter, … the rooms have almost no heat. It was 46F when I first went into the room. After running the (poor) heater all night, it got the room up to only 53F.

Ilala Lodge: 4*/5* Lodge in the midst of a 0* economy. Best of the trip, though the lunch and dinner menus were the same each of the 4 days. This may be a cost saving deal for the Lodge since it's running at 20-25% occupancy.

Food:

Generally very good to excellent. A bit limited in some cases but that is understandable. I like beef and kept trying to get some good beef, but it always seemed to be tough and lots of fat/gristle. Try something else. Warthog - Crocodile - Road-Kill?

Local Transportation:

Kenya - Pollman's Rent-a-Wreck and Broken Buggy Company: Bad. Small vans (front row of seats almost un-usable with very limited foot/leg room) and all three first allocated to us all had major problems. In the first days, van #1 had a repeated low/flat tire. This required many stops, then finally the driver dumped his passengers for an hour while he tried to find a place to repair the tire. Van #2 broke down completely out in the "middle of nowhere" between the border and Amposelli, and the passengers were stranded for hours before the other van could come back for them. On the return (Arusha - Nairobi), the van sent to pick us up never made it - it broke down completely on the way south. We were stranded from 3PM - 5:50PM in "no-man's land" at the border between Tanzania & Kenya. Ditch this loser.

Tanzania - Rangers: Much better. The van was a bit larger, and in MUCH better condition.

Zimbabwe - Thompsons: The vans varied, but were the best of the group. Not designed for stand-up game viewing but that wasn't what we were in Zimbabwe to do except in Chobe National Park, and that was only for 2 hours.

Local Roads:
About as expected. Rough but no major problems (except in those Pollman's wrecks)

Local transportation for Game Viewing:

Under no circumstances should more that 6 people be 'assigned' to one vehicle. True, there is a front seat, but that doesn't allow for more than fractional viewing. I was stuck in as the 7th and got so frustrated and angry at the arrangement that I skipped one of the all-day game drives (Ngorongoro Caldera) and almost skipped more. Even 6, with all the 'carry-on' bags, meant a very overcrowded situation. BAD! BAD! BAD! BAD! BAD! BAD! BAD! .. BAD!

INCLUDED/OPTIONALS:

Nairobi: Giraffe Center: Very good/Excellent
Bead Factory: This could be skipped
Karen Blixen House: Historically interesting but ho-hum. Keep anyway

Sweetwaters: Night game drive: Excellent - should be an included drive
Morning Lion Hunt - very good
Chimpanzee Center - fair to good - depends on what is going on
Rhino Center - Very good/Excellent

Amboselli: Maasai Village: Excellent (watch out for the local's hard sell tactics)
An extra day could be allocated to Amboselli.

Lake "Grunge" No extras at the site itself; change to another lodge/etc for this one.
Mgangani Women's Center: Excellent

Arusha: Cultural Center: Very good

Tloma Lodge: All the local walks/visits were good. Nice place.

Ngorongoro: All day in the Caldera.
School Visit: Excellent

Serengetti: Balloon Flight - Good but VERY overpriced
Spend an extra day here.

Mbuzi Mawe: No optionals - just as well with all the problems with Tsetse flies.

Zimbabwe: Village Visit - excellent
Vic Falls walk - very good. You can only see the main part of the falls From the Zimbabwe side - not the Zambia side. Thanks for the poncho.
Helicopter Flight - a bit over-rated and very over-priced. Too short
Longer flight - Not offered
(instead of choice of 13 or 30 minute flight, do a 20 minute one with An extra pass around the falls. I assume there are legal (Park or air traffic) reasons for flying so high. Lower would have been much better.
Livingstone trip - Not offered (yes I understand why but this was one of my two primary things to do here)
Dance performance - cancelled
Chobe National Park - very good but not much game seen
River cruise - Fair to good.
Lion Walk - excellent
Elephant Rides - ho hum.

Suggestions:
Delete the days at Lake "Grunge" or find somewhere else to stay.

Stay more than one "full day" at least 2, maybe 3 times. We spent far too much time 'just getting there' and not actually 'seeing' places/wildlife.

Outbound from Zimbabwe, be sure to tell clients to check their luggage only to Johannesburg to make sure it gets started on its way. Only then should they re-check it all the way home. --- I checked my luggage through to Detroit and it didn't get there. The luggage finally made it to Houston a day later … minus a camera and some other items.

OVERLY AWFUL TRAVEL:


"Final" documentation had many errors and omissions

Air travel tickets - 6-digit/character trip ID was wrong and also listed as a paper ticket - causing repeated problems.

Air schedule: the flight home was routed through Detroit even though KLM has a direct Amsterdam-Houston flight; I took it outbound. The Amsterdam-Houston flight is only 40 minutes longer than the Amsterdam-Detroit one so for a "gain" of 40 minutes on the first leg, I was stuck with 3:20 layover plus a 3:50 flight to Houston - net extra time about 4 hours. BAD!

Luggage: documentation says one carry-on per person. Enforce it. The average of the others was almost 3 causing very severe overcrowding in those small vans. (I had just one and the green duffle).

Putting 7 people in a 6-passenger van. LIMIT to JUST 6 maximum. It just about ruined the trip for me. See result below.

Using Pollman's Rent-a-Wreck (Guaranteed Break-downs are our specialty). BAD.

Bad/misleading info on Visa Card in Zimbabwe - based on the phone call we received, most of us didn't know that we could pay Shearwaters with a Visa card and had to carry way too much cash with us.

Johannesburg: On the way "in", our local representative (Pamela) told us that she would meet us on our way "out" and have a room and meal for us at the airport due to our 8-hour layover. She never showed up. We waited and looked around and waited and looked around some more, but nothing. So much for 'promises.'

Tipping: I did see the notes in the documentation that we should do our own tipping of hotel staff, but being told/ordered to give a certain amount which is taken up in front of the others is insulting. Either include these tips in the price of the tour or leave it up to us completely, and privately.

Conclusion / Result:

I've taken 37 other "commercial" vacation tours with several different companies. I know that NO tour is ever "perfect" even with my favorite companies. There's always something that could be better. Of the 37 prior trips, one rates just "fair", 2 rate "good", 12 rate "super fantastic", the others 22 rate either "Very good" or "Excellent"

This Kenya/Tanzania trip rates poor/bad mainly due to Main Office problems or decisions.

Prior to this trip, I had three paid bookings with Overly Awful Travel, two trips listed in my Travel Planner, and two more under consideration. All the future potential trips are now "off" and due in part to the change of dates on the Red Sea cruise, it's also deleted.

Unfortunately I still have one other Overly Awful Travel trip booked/paid - "Route of the Maya" in October. That will be the last one. I won't sign up for another nor would I recommend Overly Awful Travel to anyone else - I don't want to feel responsible if they have the same kind of bad experiences as I did.

I write up extensive notes on my trips and share with others: my travel agent and others in the agency, plus I have a list of about 30 people who get either e-mail or hard-copy copies of my notes. They will all definitely see this.