Saturday, August 29, 2009

Ngorongoro Crater con't.

The colors in the crater are amazing. There is the bright blue sky, with white puffy clouds floating around. On the ground there is various shades of green grass and when the shadows from the clouds dance around on the ground it comes alive. The crater is about 12 miles wide and is the world's largest intact caldera. Before its collapse the volcanic mountain may have been taller than Mount Kilimanjaro. The rim of the Crater is roughly 7,600 feet elevation. The only animals that you will not find in the Crater are Cheetahs, giraffes and female elephants. Only the males go down into the Crater. They use the same roads as the tourists take. If you recall the roads in and out are one lane and if you meet one, he has the right-of-way.

The first day in the crater was amazing as has been every part of this journey. A list of animals I saw here and this is not a complete list but to give you an idea:
3 kinds of jackels: striped, golden and silver backed jackels
Thompson's gazelle
cape buffalo
grants gazelle
crowned eagle
crowned crane
ververt monkeys
ground hornbill - which was flying
black kites
yellow billed stork
spoon billed stork
spotted hyena
maribou stork
cattle egret
leopard in a tree
egyptian vulture
egyptian goose
abdim's stork
hydidas stork
Kori bustard

We got picnic lunches from the lodge both days and ate in the Crater. There were Black Kites(birds)that flew around at the picnic area and would swoop down and try to steal the food. We ate lunch rather quickly.

I have to say this was one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Ngorongoro Crater

After we left Lake Manyara we were soon on a dirt road. Not just any dirt road, it was gutted and torn up from the previous rains. People had then driven on it causing the big ruts and holes we had to bounce through. The drivers went slowly as the entire wheels of the Landrover would go into the ruts of the road.
We got to the Crater Lodge that sits on the rim of the Crater. This would be our home for the next couple of nights. It was beautiful. The Crater is one of the most beautiful places I have seen. There was a main lodge which had a dining room sunrooms that overlooked the rim of the Crater in which to sit and have drinks, write in your journal etc. There are no rooms in the lodge, instead there are small one room cottages with private bathrooms that you stay in.

This is the view from the lawnchairs while sitting on the edge of the Crater
The next morning we had breakfast and headed out on another game drive. It is about a 2 mile drive down to the bottom of the Crater. Everyone enters the Crater on one one lane dirt road that switchbacks down the side. Everyone exits the Crater on a different one lane dirt road that switchbacks up the Crater.

Once in the Crater these are some of the things we saw:
Lions - these guys remind me of Clarence the cross-eyed lion that was on the old Daktari television show.
Hyena, this guy made me think of my Jessie girl, my golden retreiver that was at home.
Here is a Kori Bustard just strutten around chillin'
Here he is again but this time it's, "Hey Ladies, where are you!!"
Ostriches run just like the roadrunner cartoon. Very fun to watch in an all out run.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Lake Manyara National Park

So when we left our journey we were at Lake Manyara National Park. We got to the park towards evening, got settled in, and met the rest of the group for a drink and dinner. We told the gentleman on this trip, for the purposes of this blog we will call him John. We warned him not to eat the dessert. The desserts have milk in them and the milk in Africa is not pasturized. You also cannot eat any fruits or vegetables that you don't peel yourself. But noooo, John wouldn't listen to anybody and he ate not one but two desserts.

This is looking down on the lake.

The next morning we had our first game drive in Lake Manyara National Park. We saw these baboons on this house on the way to the park.
Then at the entrance to the park there were more baboons, I believe these were Olive Baboons.
On our first game drive I saw more animals than I thought we would see on the entire trip. Here is a list of some of the animals that we saw on this game drive as taken from my journal: olive baboons, blue monkeys, elephants, hippos, warthog, giraffe, impala, dik dik, many birds and others.The landrovers we were in did not have roofs so you could stand on the seats and be sticking out of them from about your waist up. Got great views and a few surprises that way too. John and I were standing up enjoying the views and the drive and as we passed under some trees we realized we were getting wet. Not a lot but a light sprinkle here and there. Right before this we had seen some monkeys swinging around in the trees. John and I both felt the wetness at the same time, looked at each other and then looked up, and wiped our faces and arms off. We then sat down in the vehicle and didn't say a word. Then we both noticed the windshield wipers going, and saw the driver Aly was cleaning the windows. John and I both laughed as we realized, we had not been pee'd on by monkeys we had been sprayed by the windshield washer fluid.

This was the first elephant I saw. Every photographer has to have a butt shot somewhere. Buffalo

Hippo Pool
Giraffes and Warthogs

More Giraffes
Zebras on the beach
It was about at this time that John was hanging his head out the window puking his guts out - so John, how was that dessert the second time around! Hopefully a lesson learned.

Lake Manyara was a great place to start our Safari and experience our first game drive. It was a beautiful place. Next stop Ngorongoro Crater.

Sunday, August 16, 2009


After meeting up with the two other parties in our group we had lunch and told our tale of woe as to why we were late arriving. Our itinerary started in Arusha the most common place that Safari's originate in Tanzania. As our photos would be taken from the roofs of the vehicle's we used bean bags to stabilize our cameras and the telephoto lenses. We went to the market in Arusha to buy beans to fill our bean bags. We then began our journey.

There were six of us on the trip traveling in two landrovers with two drivers. It was perfect as three to a vehicle prevented any space issues or problems with everyone having access to any side of the vehicle necessary for that allusive photo opportunity.

I am going to break this out into multiple posts as there is just so much information and photos to share. Also, since this trip like the previous ones visited on the blog were done prior to digital I have had to scan all these photos and it takes time. The photos from this trip were all taken on professional film in slide format. To start us off here are a few teasers photos of the big five.

Safari Itinerary

Day 1
Fly into Kilimanjaro International Airport and transfer to the Dik Dik Hotel for dinner and overnight. The Dik Dik overlooks Mount Meru in the Arusha National Park and provides individual cabins with rather plush facilities.

Day 2
After breakfast, we will drive to Lake Manyara Hotel in time for lunch. The park is on the western edge of the Great Rift Valley and the hotel stands 3,000 feet above the park, affording a fabulous view. The Rift Valley wall is part of the earth's crust stretching from the Zambezi River in Mozambique to Turkey. There will be an afternoon game drive (our first!) in lake Manyara National Park. The park offers some of the best bird watching in Tanzania. The park is comprised of a ground water forest, swamps, bush, a soda lake and open areas. The park is known for its tree climbing lions, herds of elephants and variety of hornbills. The lakes and swamps are bustling with hippos and water birds. Overnight at the Lake Manyara Hotel.

Day 3
Morning game drive at Lake Manyara Park and lunch at the Manyara Hotel. After lunch we will drive to Ngorongoro Crater. In between Manyara and Ngorongoro live the IRAQW people, who are both farmers and pastoralists. Their culture is different to that of the Maasai and as you drive through you will enjoy not only the unique scenery, but also be able to observe these people in their day to day activities. This area is considered one of the most fertile areas of Tanzania and produces a majority of crops for the country. As you enter the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, you will notice the change in altitude as the highland forest begins. As you reach the view point at the Crater rim, the view of the Crater is magnificent. The Crater is 100 square miles and home to over 25,000 larger mammals. Dinner and overnight at the Ngorongoro Crater Lodge.

Days 4-5
There will be two full days in the Crater to explore this wonderful place. Some people refer to it as the Garden of Eden. We will leave early in the morning, enjoy a picnic lunch in the Crater and return late in the afternoon for dinner at the Lodge.

Days 6-12
After breakfast, we start into the Serengeti National Park, a park equal in size to many small countries such as Northern Ireland. We will enter the park through the Salei Plain, an untraveled route for tourists. We will detour to O'Karien Gorge, which is the nesting site for the Serengeti vultures and then return into the park through a passage in the Gol Mountains, driving directly to our campsite at Naabi Hill. The Serengeti is at its best during this time of the year with the migration of the large herds complete and the calving of the wildebeest and zebra prolific, all making for excellent predator/prey activity. The animal population is at its peak of over 3.5 million with the wildebeest alone numbering 1.5 million. We will have 7 nights camping and will not only be able to view and explore unique areas of the Serengeti, but we will also be close and feel the exuberant, vibrating and brawling life of the wilderness. Humans have no right of passage here (it is a privilege) as the law gives the right of way to the wildlife. The Serengeti is never the same, for activites, events and occurrences are creating new scenes every day, every hour and every minute.

Day 13
We depart the Serengeti and make a short visit to the cradle of Mankind-Olduvai Gorge-as we leave the park. Those interested in archaeology will find this place a goldmine of evolution with fossils, settlement remains and stone artifacts dating millions of years ago. Lecture tours are offered, or you may enjoy a picnic lunch and enjoy the view and the birds surrounding the area. There is a certain magic for many people, to be standing where all of humankind may have begun. The differences between us all seem small when we recognize the home of our ancestors. We will proceed to Kifaru Lodge for dinner and overnight. Kifaru was originally the farm house on the Shangri-La plantation, a coffee, flower and cattle farm. Still an operating farm, the house has been renovated into a lodge with a bed and breakfast atmosphere, with a five star chef. It is the perfect stop after camping for seven days. There is a swimming pool, tennis court and gorgeous flower gardens. Walking is permitted.

Days 14-15
After breakfast, we drive to Tarangire National Park, with a quick stop for shopping along the way. We will have two nights at Tarangire tented lodge and game drives during the days. The park gets its name from the river which threads its way through the length of the reserve. Famous for its dense wildlife population, which is most spectacular during the dry season when thousands of animals migrate into the park to the river. You can see elephants over a hundred and tree pythons are easily seen. The giant baobab trees dot the park, providing spectactular scenery. Baobab trees have branches that look like a root system and the legend is that a displeased god turned the tree upside down at the time of creation.

Day 16
After breakfast, we proceed to Dodoma en route to Ruaha National Park. Overnight at the Dodoma Hotel. Dodoma is officially the capital of Tanzania, but it is still under development for the move from Dar Es Salaam.

Days 17-20
After a long drive from Dodoma, we reach Ruaha National Park, the second largest and best kept park in Tanzania. We will be camping at Mwagusi Campsite. Comparative inaccessibility of the park has ensured that it has remained virtually unchanged for centuries, unaffected by mankind and by far the wildest of the parks. Its name derives from the Great Ruaha River, which flows along its entire border, creating spectacular gorges. Crocodiles, hippos and clawless otters soak and play in the water and on the banks of the river. The park is also known for its concentration of lesser and greater kudu and the roan antelope. Over 370 species of birds have been recorded, some of which are not found in northern Tanzania. Wild dogs should be easily seen.

Day 21
We travel to Mikumi National Park for the last night of our safari. The drive from Ruaha will allow a short visit to a historical museum. The main feature of the park is the Mikumi flood plain, with its open grassland that eventually merges with the woodland covering the foothills of the mountains that border the park on two sides. The park is rich in wildlife and bird life. It is also the most frequented park as weekend excursions are organized by tour operators from Dar-Es-Salaam. We will overnight at the lodge.

Day 22
After breakfast, we will depart for Dar and reach the city in time for lunch. We will have the afternoon at leisure, for shopping, relaxing, sightseeing and packing. Our flight is just past midnight.
(Itinerary provided by Unique Safaris)

A Photographic Safari

As mentioned in an earlier post when planning for a trip it is always good to be prepared for the unexpected. For instance my travel plans to our destination to Tanzania was scheduled to include 3 different flights on Northwest/KLM. First to Chicago then on to Amsterdam and then on to Arusha to spend a night at the Dik Dik Hotel.

My actual travels went like this. The first flight was supposed to leave around 12:45. So I got up early and decided since I would be flying for 17 hours I wanted to get a run in. It was the end of February but there was not a lot of snow. The roads were clear for the most part. I was only going to do a short run, a 3 mile loop. I was staying at my parents house and as I approached their driveway and slowed to a walk I was thinking what a great run it was, and there was no ice to manuever through which made it better because I could keep my pace going. Until...Mom leaned her head out the door and shouted, "Hurry up you're leaving eary!". I took a running step onto the end of the driveway and I hit it. ICE, the one place I had to step, had ice.

Down I went, slamming my head to the pavement and getting road rash down my thigh and ass. I sat up and and thought, this is not good.

I got inside and found out we were leaving early due to fog in Chicago. They had already closed Midway and we were to fly into and out of O'Hare so were taking an earlier flight in case of further delays etc.

Next, came an hour ride to the airport. I was wearing my windpants and a shirt. An hour in the car preceeding a trip on a plane gives one plenty of time to think. I realized that what I was wearing was not a good choice. If we crashed and there was a fire my nylon windpants would melt to my skin. (Nevermind that I would probably be dead!). So upon arrival at the airport I pulled my Khaki pants from my bag prior to checking it. I then went to the bathroom and changed stowing, my windpants in my carry-on.

Speaking of my carry-on, we received special permission from the airline to take two carry-ons which is usually not allowed on overseas flights. We would all have our camera bags and then we would have a regular carry-one with our medicine and other usual items. My carry-on was big, and heavy. While I was in good shape back then, I am not a big person. I could carry it like a suitcase or turn it into a backpack.

I think I had about 85-90 rolls of professional film with me. Yes, this was long before the days of digital. We had all taken the film from the canisters and placed them in baggies. This way when going through security you could ask to have your film handchecked. So we would take out the baggie, the guards could see it was film and pass it back to us around the xray machines. This was important because we were taking so many flights and we didn't want the film to be affected.

So we boarded our flight which turned out to be the 10:00 flight that was finally leaving at 12:30. We were on an older model plane with no phones and we were directly in front of the bathroom, you know those seats that don't tilt back because the wall is there. We all decided we had to get better seats on the next flight, but we were all so high from the excitement of Africa that we didn't care too much.

Not until the Captain came on the loudspeaker. He had an annoucement to make. He would be turning around to return to our city of origination. "What, no, he can't do that, he must circle!" we all shouted. We were told that there were too many other planes circling, "yeah we can see them out the window, so what's one more" we asked. Then we were told, "well this plane doesn't have landing capabilities in fog." What, you let a plane take off that doesn't have landing capabilities in fog to fly to a destination where you knew that one of the airports was already closed due to fog. Yeah, tell me another one Mr. Airline. All we could do is sit there, the excitement gone while we rode the 45 minute flight back to where we started.

We landed and the gate crew told us we would have to go back to the main ticketing counter and see if we could get on another flight. So we all made the treck back to the main ticket area to be told, actually the gate crew has to give you a ticket so you need to go wait there and see if a seat opens up on the next flight which was the 3:00. It is now 2:50. We run towards the concourse, go back through security hand checking our film on the way. At this point I am wearing my carry-on as a backpack, carrying my camera bag and runnning to the same gate we had just arrived at, screaming to people as I go to "get out of the way" so I and the others can get through. I might be little but I can be determined and when I want something you better not be in my way. Of course our gate was at the end of the longest concourse the airport has. We get there in time to wait in line and catch our breath. We are given a ticket for the 3:00 flight. We board the much nicer plane fully equiped with phones and take off at 3:30.

So why the big urgency to get to Chicago? When we get to O'Hare, we have to transfer to the International terminal. Then we have to get checked in so we are ready for our 4:30 flight to Amsterdam. Once in Amsterdam we have a couple hours layover and then we depart to Kilimanjaro, Tanzania-a flight that only runs twice a week. Therefore, if we miss that connecting flight in Amsterdam we will miss 4 days of our Safari.

We were all trying to be calm on this flight. Except for John. It was at some point during this flight that he realized that during our return trip down the concourse he forgot to pick up his film when it was handchecked by security. So he was about to embark on a photographic safari with no film, a real bummer. He had no choice but to try to buy some at the airports. Our fabulous leader was busying trying to call her contact at the airline to have him meet us at the gate when we arrived. All we could think of was that all the flights have been delayed due to the fog, so our flight to Amsterdam will be delayed also. While it will be close we should be okay. We landed in Chicago at 4:35. We deplaned and looked at the departing flight screens. One plane had taken off on-time all day.

Our 4:30 flight to Amsterdam.

The airline people were real jerks. They were crabby and nasty and not nice. I know they were being inundated with upset people, but you work in customer service dude, that's what it's all about. We were repeatedly told, nope can't help you, your ticket is untransferable and non-refundable. We headed over to the International terminal to see what we could do there. We got to the ticket counters and only two were open. One guy was at the airlines counter we had just been on, and Brittish Airways was open. We went to BA to see if there was any way that they could get us to Africa.

The ladies there were great. They found us a flight but we would have to get our previous airline to sign off on what is called a Fin, which means any cost difference would be charged to the airline that screwed up. So over to the other ticket counter we go and plead our story. We don't even get done telling it and the wonderful gentleman whose name I'll not forget, "Jimmy Carter" said of course we can help you, no problem. This guy even went down to baggage claim to get our bags so they could be checked in at BA. Our flight was not until around 8-9 pm. So we sat around waiting. We were the first ones to check in and when it was finally time to board, the gate crew ladies came to find us in the crowd to get us on the plane first, there was no way they were going to let us miss this plane. So a big thank you to Brittish Airlines and Jimmy Carter. We boarded the plane and were on our way to London's Heathrow Airport where we would connect to Nairobi Kenya. Once there, one of our drivers would meet us and we would stay overnight and travel by bus to Arusha, Tanzania.

We boarded the plane and could finally relax and enjoy our teriyaki salmon dinner and watch a movie. There was only one more hurdle we had to get over.

When traveling to Africa you need a Visa for the countries you will visit. We had all sent our passports to Washington DC to get a visa for Tanzania. No one had a visa for Kenya - where we were landing.

We arrived at Heathrow and found our next gate was of course at the other end of the airport. Heathrow is one long airport. It took a bit to get there because Patty had taken a sleeping pill on the flight and apparently it didn't kick in until three hours prior to landing. So I was leading her around in her sleepy stupor trying to keep her moving. John kept disappearing into every gift store he could find emptying them out of all the film they had in stock trying to replenish his supply. We finally made it to the gate in time for last boarding call. Good gosh, what more could happen. We get on board and they close the door and we are off.

The plan is that we will need to get a termporary 24 hour visa at the airport when we arrive. Hopefully the visa people would be there as we were arriving around 11:00 pm, as without a visa there would be no going through customs. We arrived to find a massive group of other people that also needed a temporary visa. But at least we were on African soil. We talked to other travelers while we waited over an hour to get our 24 hour visa that we would need for 6 hours. Finally, we got through customs and could head down the elevator to our driver who should be waiting, get our luggage and go to the hotel. Our driver Aly was waiting at the bottom of the escalator, good, finally something went as planned. We walked to the luggage racks and stared in disbelief. They were empty....hhmm so where is our luggage?

Lets recap, we were the first ones to check in for the Brittish Airways flight in Chicago, which means our luggage was the first into the belly of the 747. We barely made it to last boarding call on our connecting flight at Heathrow which we went directly to. It never occurred to us that our luggage probably wouldn't make it. Aly assured us he had looked into it while waiting for us to get the visas and it would be arriving on the next flight from London, which would be in four days - at which time we would be in the bush! (No worries a bush pilot would bring them to us I was told, hhmm, me thinks I'll believe it when I see it.) We got to our hotel after midnight and would have breakfast at 6:30 am to catch the bus to Arusha at 8:00 am.

So the lesson here is to be flexible and open minded, it adds to the adventure. Besides you will drive yourself, and everyone you are with, crazy if you don't, especially when you are about to embark on a month long trip to a third world country.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

It's Back....

That's right the Sunday night travelogue is back. We left off in the middle of a safari in Tanzania. Because it has been such a break in travel posts and because I received many questions on our adventure getting to Africa I will detail that and decided to just start over with Africa from the beginning. I will post about this adventure each day during the coming week. Then it will be on to England, Wales and Ireland and finally Alaska by sea.

To get us started here is a little language lesson in Swahili. During my preparations for the trip it never occurred to me what language would be spoken in Tanzania. I don't know why it never did, I have always loved languages. A little French, Spanish, Italian and minimal Greek. About a week before our departure it occurred to me to find out what language I would be hearing when we were in camp. We were using a native owned company and everyone was Tanzanian. Our two drivers, the owners of the company spoke English and some of the campstaff did, we would be hearing a lot of Swahili as well.

I didn't even have time to get any study materials before we departed to learn how to say "Hello" or "Thank you". The words I learned there while being immersed in the culture, hearing the words used in real life situations it was so much easier to learn and I still remember the words I used today, thirteen years later. So it is true what they say, if you really want to learn a second language immersion is the way to do it.

These are words we used everyday:
Hjambo Hello
Good morning Habari ya asubuhi
Good night/sleep well Lala salama
Good-bye Kwaheri
Yes Nidiyo
No Hapana
Please Tafadhali
Thank you Asante
Thank you very much Asante sana
slowly, slowly pole pole
where is the toilet Wapi choo

duma cheetah
simba lion
tembo elephant
nyani monkey
snake nyoka
mondo servel cat
twiga giraffe
fisi hyena
chui leopard
kifaru rhinoceros

Monday, August 3, 2009

Random Pics

So I went in to bed on Saturday night after a day of herding and what do I find...but Goldilocks herself sleeping in my bed.
It didn't last long as she was shown her own bed and Sophie took her place.

Little Paws - I love these pics of Sophie's toes(I guess it's time to wash the cat beds again)

Bella surveying her kingdom!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Which One is Not Like the Other?

Can you guess who is related? There is a father and son in these pictures can you guess which ones they are?
Picture A
Picture B

Picture C

Here are some more pictures from herding today.



Shep and Zepher
aka father and son

Yes, if you guessed picture A and B you are correct. Watching them herd together is amazing it is like seeing double. Little Zepher works so much like his father already.