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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


Getting Ready…..

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 some souvenirs.

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 their dreams.

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


Safari Start…….

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.

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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 one out.

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 before.

Posted by Scott


Pool Day....

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 road.

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


Tutsi Flies.....

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


Hungry Hippos....

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.

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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 office.

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

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