We landed at Kenya Nairobi Airport around 5:00am and made our way
to the immigration desk. After paying $50 we were done and the whole
entry process was a lot less of an ordeal than we expected. The airport
was surprisingly nice and very clean with no one there to hustle you
when you exited the airport. We found a taxi stand and for about $15
we got a ride in to town to our Hotel.
We rested for a couple hours then headed out into town to check out
Nairobi which is a fairly modern city in a country with no infrastructure
once you leave the capital. Our first stop was at a fast food chicken
shop where we filled up on some greasy pollo. Next we grabbed some
ice cream cones and walked done the street where Lisa found a store
full of tourist junk and spent a year’s wages in Kenya or about $100.
We were heading south the next day for Arusha the staging town for
going into the Serengeti and we needed to find some transportation.
After looking a bit we found a shuttle bus service and they only charged
$20 each for the 6 hour trip. We booked 3 seats and needed to be there
by 7:30am the next morning.
Later that evening the girls went to sleep and I decided to see what
night was like on the streets of Nairobi so I went out against the
words of the security and about everywhere else you read. I left the
camera, money and my watch in the room and walked around the city
for about 2 hours talking with people. Maybe it is my size or the
fact that I was not flashing any money around but I felt totally safe
and had some very good conversations with people. They seem to love
Americans now that Bush is gone and Obama is in office, after all
he has family still living in Kenya.
Posted by Scott
Riding with the Locals……
We got up early and caught the bus to Arusha. The shuttle was packed
full and there was no room to stretch around so this was going to
be a long trip. About 3 hours into the journey down long dusty roads
across the countryside we entered the border town to Tanzania. We
offloaded and processed our paperwork with the exit station of Kenya.
As we were walking to the Tanzania Border office about 100 meters
from the Kenya one in basically a neutral zone three men walked up
to us in normal cloths and asked us to give them our passports. I
assumed they were not with any government agency and trying to hustle
us so I kept walking and at this time our bus driver stepped in and
in some Swahili foul language told them where to go.
Now the Tanzania border office was a different story and because America
gives them special treatment we were given the same. The whole bus
was done and ready to go while we were still trying to get our visa.
And on top of that we were charged double of any other person on the
bus just because we were Americans.
Lisa decided to buy some hand made jewelery from the local Maasai
ladies through the open window in the bus and after pulling out some
money it turned into a small riot as they tried to push they handi
crafts through the opening. Finally Lisa just ducked down and cried
for help as I shut the window closed.
So after another 3 hours we arrived at Arusha and the shuttle stopped
in a parking lot where we were greeted by 10 guys trying to offer
us their taxi. Unfortunately when you have never been somewhere and
basically you do not know anyone there this can be very overwhelming.
I just looked for the driver that was the least pushy and said you’re
hired. I had prearranged a room down the road at the Mt. Meru game
Lodge and after a 10 minute taxi ride we were there.
The lodge is more like a 10 room hotel with a zoo attached to it because
they rescue injured animals and keep them there on the grounds. We
cleaned up grabbed some dinner and made friends with some porcupines
and a pet 700 pound Eland that Maddie named Missy. Upon going to sleep
we were reminded that now we were in Africa and the dangers of Malaria
were present as we draped the mosquito nets over our beds.
Posted by Scott
Woke up and ate breakfast at the Mt. Meru Lodge then hired a car for
half a day to take us to town and back. First stop was to exchange
some dollars for the Tanzanian Shilling and with a rate of 1350 to
1 we ended up with stacks of freshly printed bills. At this point
Maddies jaw dropped and I handed her 40,000 of spending money to buy
After going to Fortes, the company we were hiring a safari vehicle
through, and singing the papers we headed to McMoody’s for lunch.
The place is an African knock off of McDonalds and they have not yet
got the concept down. I ordered the burger with green peppers that
would make even the diehard hot sauce lover yell for water. We headed
back to the lodge and stopped by a farmers market and bought some
carrots for Missy the pet Eland.
That afternoon I took a walk into town which was about a mile down
the road and ended up spending the entire time talking with people
I met along the way. everyone is so friendly and if they can speak
english they just want to talk to you about where you live and what
things are like. They also want to talk about their family and about
That evening we ate outside at the lodge at a candlelit table under
the stars and surprisingly we were not bothered by mosquitos. We were
joined for dinner by Wanda and Natasha a mother and daughter from
Charlotte, North Carolina.
Posted by Scott
We were greeted at the lodge this morning by Abel our guide and driver
from fortes. Abel is 34 and has a wife and a son and daughter which
live in Arusha. We loaded up and headed into town to finish some last
minute details then headed west towards the parks. We had to purchase
a credit card that has all the fees paid in advance for the parks
we would enter it seems they do not accept cash anymore after a park
manager was caught with $400k in a suitcase at the airport.
Our first visit was Tangarire Park which is famous for its elephant
herds. Once through the gate you are not allowed to exit the vehicle
but fortunately the top pops up so you can stand up during the game
drive. About 2 miles in we say our first sighting of a female cheetah
with 2 cubs but she was fairly far away so we did not get a good view
for long. Next we ran into a herd of elephants with a newborn and
they crossed the road in-between us and a car in front. The adults
proceeded first then each one face a vehicle as the little one passed
through like secret service agents protecting the president.
We stopped for lunch at the Tangarire Safari Lodge that sits atop
a mesa overlooking a valley with a river going through it. In front
of the lodge was a Pumba or a warthog that was fairly tame but seemed
to have a way of letting you know when you got too close. We ate lunch
while checking out the view of gazelle, elephants and giraffes graving
in the valley below, it was simply amazing. When you see the pictures
and videos of animals in Africa they tend to film it when they are
in the Serengeti and it is dry and brown but we were shocked at how
green it is everywhere.
After lunch we did more game driving and then preceded out of the
gate and on towards a tented lodge that I had reserved on the internet.
Abel thought he knew where it was on the other side of the town of
Karatu. We turned down a dirt road that went through some coffee plantations
and all along the way we saw children coming out to wave at the car.
So we decided to stop and hand out a notebook and pen to each child
we saw, we had bought the notebooks back in Nairobi but just for fun
Lisa would hide a 1,000 note of Tanzania money inside(about .75 cents).
It was the most amazing thing to watch the expression on these kids
faces when they found the money inside the notebook, it was like they
won a million dollars.
Anyway after 10 miles down this dirt road through canyons and over
hills we arrived at the Crater Forest Tented Lodge but unfortunately
we needed the Ngorogoro Forest Tented Lodge and it was just getting
dark. So we hauled butt back to the main road and got some good directions
on where it was but just to be safe I pulled out the Night scope and
just as I turned it on I saw the sign off the road. We pulled a u-turn
and headed about 2 miles down a dirt road then came up to a gate in
the middle of nowhere with no lights to be seen. It turns out we were
the only guests and since we never showed up they shut down the place,
after about 20 minutes they had the cook making dinner and the electricity
going while we were getting situated in a very cool tent.
Posted by Scott
Original of Man.....
We went today to the Rift Valley and the Manyara Game Park. Immediately
when we went through the gate we encounter a colony of baboons of
maybe 50 of them. They were not afraid of the vehicle at all and look
like they would rip you apart if you got out. The babies are cute
and like to ride on the backs of their moms to get around.
Next we ran into a herd of giraffe moseying through the trees looking
for fresh sprouts. They are so graceful the way they almost glide
along with their long legs and slender bodies. The herd decided to
cut in front of us and would gallop as they crossed the road knowing
they were in our way.
We cut across a large field and ended up at the hippo pool with around
30 of the stinky beasts lying in the sewage like water. They are constantly
going potty in the pool so it turns into a giant toilet. If you watch
them for long enough you will see them through a fit and start fighting
amongst each other. They like to open their giant mouths to reveal
the large teeth and pink gums. The hippo pool was one of the few places
where it was safe to get out of the car for a while.
We drove for another hour and ate a boxed lunch provided by the Lodge
on the top of a hill overlooking the valley. The trees were loaded
with bright beautiful birds that were very friendly and would hop
down nest to us while we ate.
We drove for 2 more hours then ended up back at the lodge and rested
for the rest of the day.
That evening we ate dinner then sat around the campfire they had
in front of the tents and enjoyed the quite.
So today we needed to drive over the mountains of the Ngorogoro Reserve
and into the start of the Seringit which is Maasai meaning endless
plain and where the Serengeti gets its name. Right away we started
seeing large amounts of Maasai people who like to grave their sheep,
goats and cows next to the road and while they stand there they watch
the cars go by. The younger ones have learned to hold their hands
out and beg every time someone passes. The hills seem dotted with
the mud huts they live in and there is some kind of ratio to the amount
of huts in each village to the amount of wives the Maasai man has
to the amount of cows he pays for the wife, I have yet to figure this
Once we entered the flats we and he area known locally as Ndutu we
start to seen larger herds of animals and the zebras seem to be the
most common. After driving for another 30 minutes we arrive at the
Olduvai Gorge the place where the first human bones were found. We
received a 45 minute lecture on early man while we ate our box lunches
at the overlook then we were off.
About 5 minutes out we ran into a group of Maasai women and I had
Abel stop so Lisa could get her picture with them. To keep them quite
you have to tip them or pay them off with a couple bucks which are
like a thousand dollars to them. Immediately we start to notice the
flies all over their faces crawling on mouths and eyes and all over
the small child one of them was holding. It took us the next 20 minutes
of driving fast with the windows down to get rid of all the flies
we had borrowed from the Maasai ladies.
The main road going into Serengeti is not much more than just a big,
rough dirt road and after a little more driving we headed off onto
a smaller dirt road towards our lodge for the next two nights Ndutu.
Once off the main road and away from the traffic the herds got a lot
bigger with zebras everywhere, in fact I was very surprised by the
amounts of zebras we saw. In the middle of all the zebras we ran into
a pack of Hyenas laying in the mud at the local watering hole.
Now we were where all the herds of animals were congregated and that
meant that the predators were here also. Right off the bat about a
mile out from the lodge I spotted some cats across the valley so we
headed over and found a pair of lions basking in the sun sleeping
away the day. They hunt at night so during the daytime you mostly
find them lounging around. Because all day, every day since from when
they were born safari cars are driving around they become completely
immune to them as if you are not even there.
Upon arriving at the Ndutu lodge that I had prepaid for a few weeks
earlier we were pleasantly surprised to find out that we had no reservation
with them and I had to use their internet to find the payment online
and prove that we had paid. Now that they knew there was a mistake
the other problem was that the lodge was sold out and had no rooms
so we ended up in a room in the back that was probably used for management
to stay in but it worked just fine and we got some money back.
At dinner we were joined by a pair or friendly wild Genet Cats that
are about twice the size of a house cat and they hunt insects at night.
They like to run around the rafters in the dining area because of
all the bugs attracted by the lights and I think people slip them
a treat or two.
Posted by Scott
Into the Herds....
About an hour before daybreak we ventured out with our breakfast in
a box to seek out the great migration of over a million wildebeest
or Gnu as they are called locally. Arriving at the herds, we parking
in the middle of a thousand Gnu and shut off the engine so we could
eat breakfast. All you could hear was the grunting sounds coming from
all the animals as they passed by walking in a column further than
the eye can see.
We headed on and ran into a pride of lions made up of 3 females and
around 7 youngsters. Since it was still early they were up moving
around and playing with each other. After taking a couple hundred
photos we drove off in search of cheetahs somewhere out in the herds.
We spent the next 3 hours and finally came across 3 cheetahs sitting
in the grass waiting out the day. Because the cats are so far and
few between you tend to get a lot of vehicle traffic around them and
most of the time you know where to find one by spotting all the cars.
Luckily for the cats the vehicles can’t go out at night and that is
when they do the majority of their hunting.
We got back to the Ndutu lodge and spent the rest of the day resting.
That evening I went out with the night scope in front of the lodge
and watch zebras and water buffalo. The security at the lodge really
got a kick ouut of using the scope and had never looked through one
Posted by Scott
Today we left the lodge and right away Maddie started not feeling
good with some stomach issues probably from brushing her teeth with
the local water. They pump the water for the lodge from the lake next
to it which is high in alkaline so when you take a shower you are
left with a salty residue on your skin. With a 3 hour journey to get
to our next stop the Sopa lodge in the middle of the Serengeti we
needed to make sure Maddie could make the journey so we stopped under
a tree at a rock cropping and let her take a nap to feel better. After
an hour we were off and everyone was feeling good. Not much later
we passed through a herd of a thousand zebras that seemed to own the
We stopped by the visitors center and grabbed a snack and checked
out the local wildlife some groundhog looking creaturecalled Hyrax.
Maddie quickly made some new friends with them and ended up in a stairdown
contest with one.
We say some water buffalo and more zebras on the way and arriving
at the lodge we found a large modern style hotel in the middle of
nowhere run by generators. We spent the rest of the day by the pool
overlooking the park.
Posted by Scott
Today we left Sopa and headed North for Belina a 5 star resort built
in the middle of the Serengeti about 6 months ago. Right off the bat
the car was raided by Tsetse flies which like to bite and keep biting
until you kill them. About 5 miles down the road we got out of the
wooded area meaning the flies were gone as they like the trees.
We headed through an area known for cats and soon enough we spotted
a couple cars next to a tree so we headed over and there was a leopard
sitting there. We watched for a while before we realized behind her
there was a cub also in the tree and after a bit the cub climbed out
onto a limb. Before long there must have been a dozen cars parked
next to the tree watching the cats.
We headed on and around an hour later we arrived at Belina and checked
in for the next two nights. The place is huge and completely built
like a 5 star Vegas resort and the place runs on diesel generators.
I checked out the generation facility with 6 state of the art monster
generators with noise suppression gear. They run about 2 of them and
the others are for peak hours and reserve burning over 500 gallons
a day. It was pure global warming inside of the national park.
We kicked back and swam in the pool for a while then ended up getting
dinner and calling it a night.
Posted by Scott
Today we did not have any real plans and spent the majority of the
day around the hotel. We left for about 2 hours and went down to the
retime Hippo pool the largest in Tanzania with over 60 hippos in one
pool in the river about a half acre in size. Once at the pool we got
right down close to the water but you had to be careful of hippos
coming from the trees because they will mow you over.
We returned to the hotel and spent the rest of the day resting then
got dinner at the restaraunt.
Posted by Scott
We left early as today was going to be long because we needed to go
all the way back to Arusha and we had spent the last 7 days getting
this far out. When you button down the hatches and haul butt you can
really make some time even on the dirt roads. It took us 3 hours to
get through the Serengeti and to Ngorogoro crater.
The crater is the largest around and about 5 miles across with the
walls several thousand feet high. The bottom is almost perfectly flat
and a lake is in the middle. We headed down the steep single track
dirt road to the bottom in low gear then drove around looking at the
animals. The crater is the one place where you will find all the animals
all year round as they do not migrate out.
Soon we ran into some lions backing in the sun close to a herd of
water buffalo. Our main reason for going here was to get close to
a rhino and before long we spotted two in the distance. We parked
as close as we could and watched them for a bit but we needed to head
on to town.
We drove for another 3 hours and Abel dropped us off at the Arusha
Hotel in downtown. He seemed a little worried on the way in as it
was the time when people would get mugged or carjacked but to me everyone
on the street lokked friendly enough. After settling in we got dinner
at the hotel restaurant and enjoyed the meal while the power went
on and off several times. It turns out the power goes off all the
time and when they get a draught they can lose power for months because
the main plant is hydro.
I left in the morning and went to the airport about 45 minutes away
to arrange a flight out of Africa with my driver Praygod, his parents
must have liked to go to church. The internet would not work as you
need about 48 hours notice to book a flight and even then most African
carriers’ web sites do not function correctly especially for paying
for a ticket. Once at the airport I spent another hour in the office
of Precision Air waiting for them to try and get the computer working
when they finally told me not today. So I headed back to the hotel
and would try again tomorrow.
Later on we met up with Abel our driver and his family to have dinner.
His friend also joined us and we had a pleasant meal at a local Italian
restaurant. Maddie made friends with his daughter who cried when we
left after dinner.
Posted by Scott
Out of Africa…..
Got going and immediately went to the Ethiopian Airlines office when
they opened. Luckily the office was right down the street from the
hotel and just a short walk. We wanted to go to Bombay or Mumbai,
India but it turns out to be a bit of a process to get a visa to enter
so we booked a flight to Dubai at 3:30 this day through Mombasa, Kenya
and Addis Ababa the capital of Ethiopia. This only took us about 90
minutes to book but it was done.
After we stopped by and got some ice cream at a local shop and Lisa
bought some curios around the corner. Maddie decided to buy an ice
cream for a mocal girl that wanted to be her friend.
We then got a box with tape and put together a package to ship home.
I sent one from Kenya and it took 2 hours to get it shipped but luckily
this one only too an hour. It is a process to use the postal systems
over here in Africa but cost a tenth of air freight like DHL. They
wanted $300 to ship the first box and I did it for $30 in the post
Abel picked us up around 1:00 and we went to the airport leaving Africa
early. We knew with some stomach issues and other problems we experienced
at borders and driving that it would be too much for the family to
make it all the way to South Africa. Leaving for Dubai was the best
option for keeping the trip a good time and not a nightmare. We took
off and stopped in Mombasa to pick up some passengers then headed
to Addis flying through a lightning storm on the way in right after
the Ethiopian Airliner was lost in Beirut in a lightning storm.
At Addis we spent around three hours at the airport then bordered
a 767 for the 5 hour flight to Dubai.
Posted by Scott