Kim’s East Africa Trip – Report #1

December 15, 2010  By: Africa Adventure Consultants

I just returned on Sunday from an amazing 15-day trip through Kenya, Tanzania and Zanzibar – my first trip with Africa Adventure Consultants. Being back in East Africa was better than I expected. How can you ever fully prepare yourself for the grandeur of the African plains, the majesty of animals roaming free, and the warmth and color of the local cultures? Yet again, I was left breathless, in awe. Above all, I think that the African skies are my favorite of anywhere in the world. My oldest sister, Kelly, was my original inspiration for traveling to Africa, and when I was with her in the Limpopo region of South Africa in 2004, she made me listen to the sunset. Traveling in East Africa during the short rains offered some of the most dramatic skies I’ve ever seen. And thanks to my sister, I remembered to listen to the setting African sun as it burned orange, pink and purple across the silent savannahs. And thanks to a very busy travel schedule, I greeted each new day with spectacular sunrises.

After a short rest at the Mayfair Hotel in Nairobi, we headed in two minibuses (a.k.a. an African matatu) with Henry and George (our Kenyan guides) to Amboseli National Park, known for its huge herds of large-tusked elephants and unparalleled views of Mt. Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa. The African minibuses are clean and comfortable, have 4WD to allow for harsh road conditions, and a pop-up roof for better wildlife viewing; however, if at all possible, I highly recommended upgrading to an open-air, 4×4 Land Rover for your safari experience. We stayed at Satao Elerai Safari Camp, located on a private conservancy about an hour south of the gate to Amboseli NP. The camp has 9 luxury, mountain facing tents and 5 luxurious, lodge-style suites (the tents are a must!). Although it is a bit far from the park entrance, the advantages of being in a private conservancy include bush sundowners, night game drives and game walks. The staff was friendly, the food was tasty and the views of Mt. Kilimanjaro from the 9 tents should have been stunning (if only Mt. Kili had come out from behind the clouds!).

Other lodging options in the area include Amboseli Sopa Lodge (83 rooms, located outside of the park) and the Amboseli Serena Lodge (92 rooms, located inside the park). A few more intimate tented camps are Tortilis Camp, or farther out, ol Donyo Lodge.

Wildlife is less abundant during November and December, as well as in March and April due the rains. Although we did spot giant elephant, ostrich, giraffe, hyena, vervet monkeys, baboon, wildebeest, Thomson gazelles and an abundance of birds, it is actually better to visit this elephant haven during the dry season in January, February, and July through October. We exited the park and an hour later along bumpy, gravel roads, we reached the Namanga border to Tanzania – bidding Kenya farewell for now, purchasing our Tanzania visas, and hopping into our pop-top, 4×4 Land Rovers, all in a matter of 20 minutes. The two hour drive to Arusha was a combination of paved and dirt roads, as the road construction in East Africa seems endless, but thankfully, the roads were also lined with colorful villages, bicycles toting 2 to 3 passengers along with stacks of wood, and women miraculously balancing buckets of water on their heads.

After brushing the dust off our clothes, we made a quick visit to the Arusha Coffee Lodge, which is the perfect spot for relaxation either pre or post safari or before catching a flight. All of the 18 standard rooms and 12 suites offer posturepedic mattresses, choice of hard or soft pillows, and an indoor fireplace (just to name a few amenities) all tucked along the well groomed grounds of a coffee plantation. We enjoyed a delicious BBQ lunch at the Shanga River Lodge and a quick stop in their divine gift shop, which supports disabled Tanzanians, before boarding our 12-seater, Air Excel Cessna for a scenic (yet bumpy) 20 minute flight to the heart of Tarangire National Park. From here, our true wildlife safari began.

Photos courtesy Kim Dodson