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Found 13 results

  1. It’s been 115 days since departing TZ… Better late than never comes to mind as we go through our notes and begin our trip review. We’ll start with a thank you to ST for providing a great forum for learning about safari opportunities and to the great community here that provided advice whether directly or through your own reviews and topics. Time now to contribute back in what I hope provides some of the same enjoyment, inspiration, and experiences I’ve found in your reports. Getting there – Left home at 10pm, Tuesday September 15th for red eye flight - · Delta SEA to EWR with a 4 hour connection in MSP and 4 hour connection in EWR. · British Air EWR to NBO with a 4 hour connection in LHR. · EKA Hotel shuttle to the hotel (we’d spent the night at NBO on an earlier safari and decided against it this time). EKA is clean, modern, has a very helpful staff, and were prompt in both our pickup and drop off. We were only there for about 6 hours but worth it for the security of the room for resorting of gear, topping off batteries, taking a long steamy shower, etc. · Coastal Air from NBO to Kogatende via Musoma for immigration. Meeting the agent outside the pre security check was a little disconcerting but the agent did show up, handled our bags, and escorted us through security. Note: we had 7 bags to check as we outfitted our guide and his team for the first segment of our safari. There was some consternation checking bags through all of the above flights and then turning them over to the agent on the curb with no receipt… but everything made it. We were the only passengers on this flight so had to pay the inducement fare (3rd seat) and this covered the cost of all the bags, so a deal in our minds. Other than a mechanical issue that necessitated another plane pick us up in Musoma (30 minute delay) the process was simple and gave us an entire day in the Serengeti that would have otherwise been spent flying NBO to JRO, JRO back north… basically using up a day travelling. We strongly recommend you look into these NBO / Serengeti direct flights as an option. · Arrived Kogatende at around 10:30am, Friday 18th. Met by Jean DuPlessis, Sarah, and his extraordinary Wayo team… And as you read further along I believe you will come to understand and agree that my use of the term “extraordinary” may be inadequate. Over the 12+ months leading up to meeting Jean, we had communicated via email about the “possibilities.” One of those possibilities was to do what had not been done in the modern era: An expeditionary style safari. Here in the US we call this backpacking. Jean had secured the first ever permits for self-supported, self-contained, on foot, multi-day safari in the Serengeti National Park. There was one small hitch. The ranger assigned to this trek had been reassigned to Ruaha the previous day. Jean learned this at the airstrip, the rangers there didn’t know anything about the permit much less what he was talking about, i.e. You’re going to go walking through the bush for 4 days with all of your gear and food on your back? You’re Nuts! Once they understood or at least accepted what it was we were going to do, the decision on which ranger was going to escort us… and carry his own load, needed to be made. Hussein must have been the newest and youngest ranger as he got the assignment. Turned out great for us and for him as we think he enjoyed the safari as much as we did. All straightened away and we loaded into the trucks and headed for our launch point. We drove the Mara for a spell, enjoying our first glimpse of Zebra, Impala, Wildebeest, Crocs, and Vultures. Wildebeest carcasses that had been shore to shore for what may have been a couple hundred meters were starting to thin out, but the stench and vultures were impressive. We continued our game drive to the stone and concrete bridge that crossed the Bologonja River. There we stopped to scan the terrain from the Nyamalumbwa Hills back toward Kogatende. We discussed the original plan to walk all the way back… but looking at the distance and keeping in mind we weren’t certain of where water may or may not be, we decided to amend our route to hiking south along the west side of the Nyamalumbwa Hills to where they meet the Bologonja. From there we would follow the drainage back to the bridge where we would call for a pick up. With that settled we continued on, game driving along the Sand River, and then cutting off the track and along the base of the Hills to where the Wayo team had set up a lite mobile camp. We used the afternoon to get to know each other, sort and assign gear, teach the team how to use the gear (most had never carried backpacks, set up or slept in modern backpacking tents, etc.). We think there was still some disbelief on the part of some of the camp staff. Late afternoon we set out on a several hour walk exploring around the camp and getting a sense for how we all would travel together. Back to camp, dinner, and then off to bed… Having been on a safari previously we had the “if you need to leave your tent in the dark flash your torch and someone will come to escort you” rule. HA! As the tent we were using was a good 50m from the loo and a little farther still to the next tent I asked about the proper protocol… “Well, shine your light out of your tent. If there are two lights about waist high shining back at you don’t get out of your tent.” We’ve been asked many times if we were scared when walking or camping in the bush. The answer is an emphatic “not at all.” We’d equate it to hiking in Grizzly country: Be smart, use common sense, and trust you gut. For the most part the predators don’t want to be any closer to humans than humans to predators. More on this later. Saturday, 19th - What a glorious morning. There really is nothing like breakfast out in the open, in the bush. Loaded up we stand for a departing picture: Hussein, Cliff, ? (feel so bad his name escapes our memory and isn’t in our notes), Jean, Sarah, Terese, and me. Tomorrow we'll share our first couple of days on foot in the bush.
  2. The northern safari circuit in Tanzania is soooo yesterday… (Well, in fact, it was February for me. Ha!) The hot, tsetse-ridden southern interior is where it’s happenin’. Only glimpsed on a previous “drive-by”, the vast area to me still represents mystery and possibilities. Craig Doria is not soooo yesterday. This is my sixth safari with Craig, and despite his greying beard, he never gets old. Even for those who, like Craig, specialize in safaris in Tanzania, the southern circuit is seldom visited, and it constitutes a refreshing change of pace. A sense of adventure is palpable as we review our itinerary in the sultry night air of Dar. It reads… 3 nights Selous Impala Camp, 4 nights Kwihala Camp (Ruaha), 3 nights Katavi Wildlife Camp, 5 nights Lukwati Game Reserve. Selous Game Reserve No, it’s not like the ’90s female tennis player Monica. It’s more like the answer (in non-plural form) to the question – what does a peddler of toilets do for a living? Ok, now that I’ve gotten that out of the way… It’s a strange thing that a protected area be named after a professional hunter, and a stranger thing that it was once a battleground between the Brits and the Germans during World War I. (“A strange place to fight a war”, quips Rolf Baldus in Wild Heart of Africa, a recent, comprehensive book about the Selous Game Reserve.) And what other major park or reserve in Africa has designated areas for both trophy hunting (allowed south of the Rufiji River) and photographic safaris (north of the Rufiji) under the same protected area name? In fact, strange – and wonderful – would become the recurring theme of my first foray into the Selous. Or as Craig would put it, everything is a bit different here – and awesome. “Low-lying”. “Hot”. “Humid”. These bandied-about descriptions of the Selous conjure up green floodplains and palm trees. So, it is to my surprise that the drive from the Mtemere airstrip to Selous Impala Camp first skirts drab, bone-dry scrubland. Until we near one of the oxbow lakes formed by the Rufiji River or the River itself, we shall remain in the bone-dry, though the two characteristic trees of this part of the Selous, Terminalia spinosa and Acacia zanzibarica, quell the drab half way into the drive. The former, with its stiff, layered branches and brilliant green leaves, is reminiscent of a Christmas tree. The latter, with light branches blanketed in long, white thorns, evoke a White Christmas. “No place I know in Africa looks like this,” to Craig declare I. Zebras amidst T. spinosa and A. zanzibarica T. spinosa Greater kudu bull and young Impala Camp is set overlooking a lovely stretch of the Rufiji River. A sprawling mess structure and a separate bar both afford one the opportunity to view hippos and crocs. All the basic bush comforts and luxuries are provided – no less and no more (well, there is at the bar the badass Italian coffee machine brought in by Fausto, the camp manager). Dennis, a 12-year veteran of the Selous, is our excellent local guide with a baritone voice that leaves no doubt as to who is in charge. A dry season safari in the Selous basically consists of game drives around the oxbow lakes of the Rufiji and powerboat rides on them. From Mtemere going roughly northwest, the lakes go, in order… Mzizima, Siwandu, Nzerakera and Manze, with Tagalala some distance west of this cluster. Impala Camp lies between Mzizima and Siwandu, just where T. spinosa and A. zanzibarica begin to add liveliness to the landscape, and it has easy access to Lake Siwandu by boat. Dennis (foreground) Breakfast on the Rufiji So compelling is the boat ride from Impala Camp, I, ordinarily not much of a boat-safari dude, would end up enjoying it twice. The boat station is on the Rufiji proper and is steps away from the bar. The Rufiji, freely flowing and teeming with fish, fish-eating birds, hippos and crocodiles, is possibly the healthiest looking river I have seen in Africa. The number of crocodiles is truly astounding, triggering the sophomoric question of how much money would have to be dangled to entice one to swim across the approximately 75-meter-wide river. Craig: “it would probably be okay crossing just one time, don’t you think?” I negotiate Craig down to an embarrassingly low amount (don’t worry, you Doria children – it’s just hypothetical) until – tick-tock, tick-tock – a monster reptile with chilling green eyes swims by us. After a few minutes on the Rufiji, a slight right turn of the boat gets you onto the tranquil waters of Lake Siwandu. Hippo pods seem more numerous here. Waterbucks and buffalos graze out on the small peninsulas full of sunning crocodiles. A group of zebras emerges from the thickets to water. White-fronted bee-eaters, in smaller numbers than the carmine bee-eaters of the Luangwa Valley but no less brilliant and showy, have formed a nesting colony on the riverbank and do their industrious bee-eater thing. The sun sets behind a seemingly manicured row of borassus palms. Yes, it’s all a cliché, and it’s real. Lake Siwandu Buffalo from the boat Hello Fresh blood stains Tick-tock, tick-tock White-fronted bee-eater A drowned leadwood A row of borassus On terra firma, we scour the fringes of Siwandu, Nzerakera and Manze and the dry plains (now looking a bit like Tarangire, by the way) just north of those lakes for predator activity early morning, and then watch the magical “nine o’ clock magnet” phenomenon while enjoying a picnic breakfast. It is as if someone flips the switch on at nine, and the lakes hypnotize the animals and tow them in. One can, over a cup of coffee from a good vantage point, watch pretty much all the plains game species pass by on their way for a drink. The Selous offers up all the familiar plains game, but each species is a bit different (strange?) from the norm. Impalas here, though classified as East African impala, are small and dull-colored and more similar to the Southern impala. The zebras betray narrow stripes, suggesting they bleed into the Crawshay’s category. The giraffes are categorized as Maasai but with less pronounced blotchy patterns typical of the type. (By the way, the giraffe purportedly does not occur south of the Rufiji in the Selous.) The hartebeests are of the Lichtenstein’s variety, slightly out of their elements in this dry, non-miombo part of the Selous. The greater kudus look the same here as anywhere else in Tanzania but appear to be on a different calendar. Most everywhere in Africa where they are found, including other parts of Tanzania, greater kudu bulls mix and mate with females at the end of the rains in May/June and then occur almost exclusively in bachelor groups later in the year. Every magnificent kudu bull encountered here would still be seen with his girlfriends. A typical late morning scene Lichtenstein's hartebeest Greater kudu bull
  3. Back from a great safari... I encountered more lions on this one than any other safari in my life. Ruaha, in particular, was crawling with them. Elephants have, understandably, become skittish and nocturnal at Selous, but Ruaha and Katavi had good numbers of them. This was my first time to Selous, and it was a pleasant surprise. The birdlife on the Rufiji and the lakes is incredible. Tree-climbing lions, tame leopards and roan at Katavi. And I was privileged to have visited a newly-gazetted Lukwati Game Reserve, a huge, pristine miombo woodland.
  4. Just returned from a ten day safari in Southern and Western Tanzania last week. Over the coming days I'll post a trip report. It was my third visit to Tanzania, but I had always stayed in the north: Lake Manyara, the Crater, the Serengeti, Zanzibar. I had made a short visit to Mahale in the west on the shores of Lake Tanganyika and longed to return. So with my sixteen year old niece in toe and my 81-year old father, we set out on a different path: Ruaha, Katavi and Mahale looking for the elusive feel of true wilderness. We had a fantastic time, had many wonderful sightings and the landscapes of each were in my eyes especially stunning. Some of the most beautiful in Africa. The less visited parks have shyer game and less tourist traffic. So there's the trade off---a more true wilderness feel...but it's all up to you and your guide to spot whatever it is you're looking for...the itinerary was booked through Nomad Tanzania and went as follows: 3 Nights at Ruaha Kigelia 4 Nights at Chada Katavi and 3 nights at Greystoke Mahale A few notes of interest perhaps: Ruaha is visually stunning with hills dotted with baobab---more than I'd ever seen elsewhere. Rocky hills and distant mountains. Also sand rivers crisscross the park as well as the Great Ruaha River which from what I was told always has water even in the driest months. Sausage trees, acacia, doum is a photographers paradise. We saw many lions here. Lions interacting with a huge 1000-head herd of buffalo. While watching the herd drink at the Ruaha, we noticed lions taking position evenly spaced on the back side of the herd. Then, two females took off down a gully and we lost sight of them. Later our guide speculated they may have taken a calf and one female emerged with a bloody nuzzle. As we were trying to figure out what exactly was happening, the buffs started to organize into a formidable united front...they began moving in the direction of the lions. There was some sort of face off and the buffs drove at least two lions from their position. After a short while they returned with a lot of roaring and bellowing between the two groups...exciting stuff and what gets us safari-types adrenaline pumping! We also watched as a couple of bull elephants came up the bank and scattered a pride of lions, and watched as one female stalked an impala (but missed). There was still a significant amount of water around even though I knew it to be the dry season I think it's more toward the beginning of it. The end of the dry season is a couple months down the road: October...we saw lesser kudu which was a new species for me. No leopard or cheetah or wild dogs. They are quite strict about going off road in Ruaha. Lion, elephant, giraffe, buffalo are numerous...hyena are shy here. Katavi was also incredibly beautiful. I could not get over the trees...sausage trees, acacia, (not baobab country as Ruaha) palms, and the terrain was more flat, but the landscape was still quite beautiful. The lion pride that you could always count on seeing in recent times on Chada Plain has been busted up by a coalition of four males and they remain a bit scattered at the moment. We did not see lions in our four days there although we had seen plenty in Ruaha. The lion heiarchy is in flux and will be sorted out--just not on our visit. What we did see were leopards. Four in fact including one on a limb, dangling tail with an elephant unawares feeding right below! We saw loads of crocs and hippos which Katavi is famous for--but it was a little early to see the annual 800-hippo mud pool and croc caves...there was too much water still around although there were about fifty or so hippos staking out their places early. We saw a couple dozen crocs laying in the sun and feeding on a dead hippo carcass. The abundance of food seemed to put the crocs into an amorous mood as we watched the mating behavior which I thought was fascinating! The blowing of bubbles, the dancing water off the scales of their back as they rumble and then the males chasing and mounting the females in the water...occasionally a loud slap on the water by the jaws of a croc...made me think of the documentary I saw about Great Whites and a dead whale carcass---the gorging of food seemed to bring on the mating behavior there as any rate, interesting to see. The camp was old-school Africa and reminded me a bit of Jack's Camp in Botswana in décor. Bush toilets and bucket or bush showers (at both Kigelia and Chada). We saw a herd of more than 100 elephants here and 1000-2000 buffalo on the Chada Plain...we experienced the Fly Camping and did two night drives which I enjoyed a lot. We saw some interesting things at night at Katavi but I was bummed that another vehicle had spotted a serval cat---and while I do not go on safari to check off a list---the serval is one of the few cats I have yet to see in the wild! Oh well, I guess I have to keep going back! Mahale is every bit as stunning as I remember. It's remote and incredibly beautiful. The camp when I visited in 2000 was not permanent and was taken down each wet season. Now, there is more permanent bandas. The camp is part Swiss Family Robinson and part Robinson Crusoe. Its a perfect compliment to the other parks on our itinerary as its totally different. Chimps are the stars here but there are other wildlife---including Big Bird, an orphaned Great African Pelican---quite the charismatic fellow! We saw yellow baboons, chimps, red colobus monkeys, red-tailed monkeys, blue monkeys. We also saw a pod of hippos, more crocs than I cared to see further down the lakeshore. Swimming is done off shore a bit and it doesn't take long to reach deep water (over 1000 feet! The lake is a mile deep in some places!) where crocs do not venture...but it's still fine to swim a bit in the shallows at the camp but it's done at your own risk. Hand line fishing resulted in sashimi for the boat and the sunsets are spectacular over the lake and neighboring Congo (DRC) thought this time of year in the haze, I could never tell if I was actually seeing the other side---it's 50k directly across the long and narrow lake...the last time I was here we saw a large group of the habituated chimps grooming, pant hooting, even scouring the trees for colobus...this time the group was much more scattered and we followed an alpha male hopeful Ceasar through the forest and a mother and her baby. We also saw from the boat three wild chimps feeding in a tree---a mother and a small baby and an adolescent. The chimp community ebbs and flows -- that's nature for you...In the night, a group of bush pigs decided to feed on palm nuts outside my banda so I got a good view with my flashlight. The stars were best here although its because we were contending with a full moon at Kigelia and Chada. I'm not a professional photographer by any stretch but I enjoy taking pictures...chimps are extremely difficult to photograph as their black shapes just meld into the surrounding forest and trees---my respect for folks that capture outstanding pics of them is immense! I used some filters on various pictures to try to better see the subjects...some folks/purists don't like it probably but I'm trying to see better what I captured via my camera. I'll attach some albums to the report as I go through my pictures but I hope this is a good start to the wonders of Western and Southern Tanzania!
  5. In a few days, I am off to Tanzania, guided by Craig Doria again, to sample all the different tsetse fly bites the various parks and reserves have to offer (Selous (Selous Impala Camp), Ruaha (Kwihala Camp), Katavi (Katavi Wildlife Camp) and an off-the-beaten path place near Lake Rukwa). Indeed, I will be swatting away at those little buggers, but there will be plenty of other things to look at, I am sure. Will report back.
  6. Hi everyone. I have a tough choice here, for our next safari in 2015... If you hade to choose between these two parks, which would you prefer? I know that there are a lot of variables that come into play... For example, we will be travelling in either Aug or Sep; probably staying at Katavi Wildlife Camp if Katavi, Mwagusi or Kwihala if Ruaha; we are more interested in game drives than walking; flying in, not driving. There is obviously a difference in cost in getting to the different parks, but, ignoring that for a moment... I get the impression from the trip reports that the game is a little more skittish in Ruaha - would that be a fair comment? Both parks have a terrific, "wild" feel to them, and the camps have a good reputation for guiding. So... hoping for some advice from you wonderful ST folk!!
  7. This is a much delayed report of a trip (September 2013). The intent was to report on this much sooner, but turns out I’m not much of a trip report or blogger sort and my initial efforts to keep some sort of a diary lasted less than 24 hours. I now have a much greater appreciation for those of you who do. The original plan was to drive from Arusha to Morogoro, on to Ruaha, Kitulo, then Katavi and turn around and come back. Then it morphed into a “circle” of sorts where we would go to Katavi then up to Tabora and over to Babati and back to Arusha. However, it turned back into the original plan for reasons that will be discussed later. This trip has already been posted on Trip Advisor out of loyalty to a couple of people there who have provided us with a lot of info over the years. (We are quite new to ST.) So if you have already read this on TA, it’s pretty much the same info. Anyway. From US to Amsterdam to JRO. All went well. Left in mid September. Tickets from Chicago to JRO were $1256 each and we cashed in American miles for round trip tickets from where we live to Chicago for a cost of $5. Arrived at JRO. We didn’t need VISA’s because ours hadn’t expired. Luggage arrived. (Yes, I failed at getting it all in carry on. Not by much, mind you, but I did fail.) Picked up by KIA hotel shuttle. Checked in with no issues and collapsed in bed. Although we usually stay in Arusha on first arrival, this trip we had no need to go into Arusha and we find KIA lodge comfortable and very convenient. Up early to meet up with George Mbwambo, our guide, at 6 am. (There are previous trip reports of travels with George posted by Atravelynn.) We met George several years ago on our first safari when he worked for a company we organized the safari through. Then he bought his own Land Cruiser and became a freelance guide and we have contacted him directly ever since. He has taken us many places. Sometimes two of us, sometimes just me and a couple of times with a car full of college students. He had just had his Land Cruiser modified to be the extended safari car version with lots more space and large windows so we felt like we were in luxury. The goal was Morogoro. We have driven there previously but this time took MUCH longer. There was a lot of construction, traffic and more than the usual police stops. So it was almost 6 pm by the time we got to Morogoro. But it is still a lovely drive and we always enjoy it. Sisal field along the B1 highway We went downtown to change some money and the guy seemed genuinely happy to see us, telling George that he used to work in Arusha and there just isn’t enough business in Morogoro. One thing I guess I hadn’t realized, and maybe it is this way with all currency, but the marked difference in exchange rate between smaller bills like 10’s and 20’s vs. 100 dollar bills. We have usually had bigger bills and I’ve just not paid any attention before and I don’t know that I’ve noticed this in other countries. We stayed at the Arc Hotel, which we have stayed at before and really like. This time we were on the second floor in very nice, large rooms that are exceptionally clean with air conditioning that worked unbelievably well, ceiling fans, and bed nets. Lovely balcony. The rooms were 70,000 TS per room. Food in the restaurant is quite good. Beer is cold. Service at the front desk is great. Service in the restaurant is acceptable to good and much improved from previous years. WiFi is available in the lobby but not in the rooms. Just a side note, depending on the time of year we have been in Morogoro, the mosquitoes have been hell. This time of year wasn’t quite as bad. May was horrible and we would always eat inside at the restaurant for dinner because of it. Arc Hotel View from balcony by Kilopascal, Room at Arc Hotel by Kilopascal, Up and out the next morning at 7 am to go to Ruaha. Stopped in Iringa for lunch. Have long since forgotten where. A brief stop for George to buy a few kilos of rice because it is much cheaper here than in Arusha. Then on our way to Ruaha. We are barely out of Iringa and have our first, and turns out, only flat tire. George quickly changed it then looked for a place to get the tire repaired. George always has two spares but wanted to get it repaired here if we could. It was Sunday afternoon and it turned out to be more difficult than we thought. But, eventually back on the road to Ruaha and Mdonya Camp. Iringa to Mdonya camp took about 2.5 hours. So, when we were setting up this trip we looked at several options for accommodation in Ruaha. Our initial email to Flycathchers apparently got lost someplace in the land of lost emails, so we started checking with others. If you are driving in with a guide instead of just flying in to a camp, make sure and check when you are booking what the cost of the driver accommodation will be. It varied from nothing to half-price or not available (or essentially full price). We had mixed feelings about Mdonya. It is absolutely a lovely setting with nice tents and the “shower under the stars” was something I really liked. The service here was very good. This is a nice camp, but wouldn’t rank among our favorites although I’m not sure we could identify why. Dinner is all guests together which we enjoy. Most guests raved about the food but in our experience with camps in Tanzania, we would rate it good, but not outstanding. It is true, that this camp is a bit of a drive, but we enjoy that and would just leave very early in the morning, take lunch with us, and return in the evening. Booking with Mdonya was quite easy, and they let our guide stay free of charge. Flora responded almost immediately to every email and the money transfer for deposit and payment was painless. We spent 4 nights here and absolutely loved Ruaha, but I have to say we found the tsetse in some sections of the park worse than Katavi. Only really annoying one day, however. Beautiful park and we particularly liked the day we drove to the “little Serengeti”. I think we may go back someday in a trip combined with Selous. We did not however, find a sable antelope. Bummer. Kudu eating from toothbrush bush [url=] [url=] [url=] Giraffe at mineral lick [url=] Elephant pair digging for water Now a bit about George. George loves birds. We enjoy birds but are basically the “look, cool bird” type. However, by the time we’ve spent a few days with George we are really in to it. Unfortunately we don’t remember year to year as well as we’d like and George has to start his tutoring all over. It’s difficult for us to judge just how good of a bird guide George is, since our knowledge of birds is so basic, but he certainly invests the time and effort into finding them, seems able to identify most of them and then will find a description for us in his guide book or in his I-pad ap. He is also willing to say he doesn’t know and we all work at finding it out. This only happened twice on this trip and never in the north, which is his regular safari “territory”. One of the highlights was watching a martial eagle consume an entire guinea fowl Bones, feet, and all, dropping a few bits to the two jackals below. We spent 4 nights in Ruaha and our time came to an end too soon. [url=] [url=] [url=] [url=] Martial eagle cleaning beak [url=] [url=] White-crested helmet shrike [url=] Ruaha hornbill [url=] Red-headed weaver [url=] Lesser-striped swallow [url=] Northern white-crowned shrike [url=] Collared palm-thrush [url=] Red-necked spur fowl [url=] That's all for now. A big thank you to Kittykat for her tutorial that was posted on how to import pictures from flickr. There is not a chance in hell I'd have figured that out on my own. Any suggestions on how to improve the posting of said pictures is welcome. Or correction on any of the names I have randomly assigned to the birds.
  8. A Road Trip Through Northern Zambia and Southern Tanzania: Bangweulu Wetlands, Lake Tanganyika and Katavi National Park I thought I would make my trip to Northern Zambia and Southern Tanzania in May 2014 the subject of my first trip report and virgin Safari Talk contribution. Having read the many excellent posts already on the forum I’m hesitant that my writing and photographic skills have a lot to live up to, but this exciting and adventurous trip taking in Bangweulu Wetlands and Lake Tanganyika and Katavi National Park seemed worthy of reporting, so here goes ………. This epic road trip began in Lusaka where I met up with my guide Doug Macdonald. The first night was spent at Pioneer Camp, just east of Lusaka and easily accessible from the airport. We packed the Land Rover ready for an early start the following day. Our first port of call was to be the Bangweulu Wetlands a drive of around 620km. A 4am start meant we could clear Lusaka unimpeded by the notorious commuter traffic jams which plague the city. At this time in the morning we were soon ‘speeding’ up the Great North Road. The Great North Road is actually in fantastic condition, well tarmacked with barely a pot hole in sight. Long straight sections meant that the occasional lorry, bus or local vehicle could be passed without too much trauma. The easiest way into the Wetlands was to take the turnoff through the Lavushi Manda National Park a distance of around 500km from Lusaka. Progress was good and we reached this point after a drive of around 8 hours with short stops for snacks and fuel. The Lavushi Manda National Park is composed of a very extensive and impressive forest, but from an animal and bird perspective seemed pretty sterile. The unpaved road was in reasonable shape and there was evidence that some sort of tourist infrastructure was being developed with signs for several campsites and trails along the way. On leaving the park the road conditions for the final 60km to the Wetlands were somewhat more challenging. Progress was slow with numerous large potholes, but the drive was interesting through an almost continuous string of tiny villages. This is very much traditional Africa with mud-brick walls and straw roofs and hordes of curious kids running after our vehicle. Finally you leave the forest and the view opens up across a huge grassy plain and what a sight, black Lechwe all the way to the horizon. There must have been at least 100,000 just in the relatively small area we could see. The water had receded sufficiently so we could drive across the plain to reach a small airstrip and ranger hut where we would leave our vehicle. The final journey across to Shoebill Island was to be by boat. We arrived at around 4pm, 12 hours after leaving Lusaka and the contrast between the bustling African city and this remote backwater could not have been more dramatic. The plan had been to camp on Shoebill Island but we discovered the camp site was not open and instead we had been allocated a large fixed tent with en-suite facilities which was an unexpected treat. There were only two other visitors on the island and so we had a real feeling of remoteness. After cooking dinner we sat with a few beers listening to the sounds of the African night, the usual chorus of insects and frogs was punctuated by the sounds of herds of Lechwe splashing through the swamp. The following day we set out to explore. The water levels were still quite high and we went initially by boat in our quest to find a shoebill. It was a magical experience drifting silently past the banks of papyrus and through carpets of water lilies. Birdlife was plentiful from the myriad of small waders to a large number of wattled cranes and raptors. We passed fishermen’s huts and tiny villages. Some fishermen still used traditional methods creating small dams in the wetlands punctuated by channels containing homemade fish traps. Sadly unsustainable fishing practices were also in evidence with donated mosquito nets stitched together to make huge nets which were then pegged out amongst the vegetation. Our quest was successful and a shoebill was sighted initially from the boat. We were able to ‘land’, walking and bouncing on the springy mass of floating weed and papyrus to get a better view. Unfortunately my ‘point and press’ camera was only able to record our sighting as a few grey blurry blobs, not worthy of publication – the view through the binoculars was rather better! In the afternoon it was shoes off and mud between the toes as we paddled and waded through the swamp back to the grassy plains to have another look at the spectacular herds of lechwe. Our two nights on Shoebill Island were over all too quickly and after a morning game drive through the herds of Lechwe (and a few zebra) we continued our journey north, retracing our steps through the Lavushi Manda National Park re-joining the Great North Road. At Mpika the road forks, we were taking the quieter left hand branch, towards our next destination Lake Tanganyika. We broke our journey with a night at the Kapishya Hot Springs where we camped on the edge of the river which gently steams from the hot water bubbling up a short walk away from our tents. The restorative powers of soaking in the warm water after a hard day’s drive were much appreciated! From Mpika the road starts to climb and you pass through some of Zambia’s highest villages and towns before turning off at Mbale for a 1000m descent to Mpulungu, the lowest town in the country on the shores of Lake Tanganyika. Here we left our Land Rover and took a boat to Isanga Bay Lodge. Ever since I was a child I had always dreamed of visiting Lake Tanganyika, the stories of David Livingstone and childhood stamp collecting have made the name familiar to me and in my mind it had become a mythical and mysterious oasis in the heart of darkest Africa! It did not disappoint. Isanga Bay is stunning with golden sand and palm trees, everything a tropical beach should be and the bonus is warm, fresh water and not a crocodile in sight, so the first thing to do was plunge straight in for a swim. Our accommodation was fantastic, consisting of a couple of beach huts on stilts a few yards from the sea, perfect for our 3 night stay. Tempting as it was, this was not just to be a beach holiday and we had plenty of activities planned. Our first day’s expedition was to the Kalambo Falls, said to be Africa’s second highest with a 221m vertical drop off the rift valley escarpment. A boat dropped us off at a local village where a path led steeply upwards for just over an hour to reach the falls. We peered over the edge mesmerised by the Kalambo River plunging off the escarpment into a deep, green forested valley before winding its way to the lake. We got back to the lodge for a late lunch and the afternoon was spent viewing some of the underwater inhabitants of the lake. The snorkelling here is amazing, there are numerous colourful cichlids. It was like swimming through an aquarium. During our stay we spent many hours snorkelling along the rocky shore line. This section of the lake is largely crocodile free and so the swimming is considered safe. The lake crocodiles apparently stay around the river mouths that feed the lake rarely entering the open waters, although there were reports of a pale coloured croc ‘affectionately’ known as Mr Mustard who is occasionally sighted swimming past the lodge! There was also chill out time too and it was very relaxing to sit on the terrace or under a shady palm tree with a beer watching the otters fishing and playing in the bay. There was the opportunity to go sailing and it was great fun zipping across the lake in a small catamaran. Off shore breezes tend to die down late afternoon and so this was the perfect time to take kayaks out onto the lake for a beautiful sunset. At this time of day the local fishermen come out. Small boats are used to spot shoals of fish before large boats are called in to cast the nets. We felt very privileged kayaking amongst the fishing boats watching this centuries old daily fishing ritual. All too soon it was time to leave Lake Tanganyika and cross the border into Tanzania for the final leg of the trip to Katavi National Park. We stocked up with food in the market before leaving Mpulungu. From here it is a 3 hour drive to the border. From Mbala the dirt road to the border is rough in parts and finally leads to a remote border crossing. This must be one of the least used border crossings out of Zambia consisting of little more than a locked gate on the dirt road. We had to find the local official with the key to let us across. Things were a little more developed on the Tanzanian side, but with only minimal delay we were on our way to Katavi.
  9. Introduction After many months of planning and testing the patience of Lenny at Africa Travel Resource, I finally decided that Niyam’s first adventure into Africa would take place in Tanzania. The final itinerary was: · 3 nights in Mkomazi National Park at Babu’s Camp · 5 nights in the southern part of Tarangire National Park at Oliver’s Camp · 7 nights in Katavi National Park at Foxes Katavi Wildlife Camp · 10 nights in the northern part of Serengeti National Park at Alex Walker’s Serian Serengeti North Camp · A final afternoon drive in Arusha National Park This was quite an ambitious plan with a 6-year old in tow and although it was my third visit to Tanzania, every stop on the itinerary presented a new location for me to explore too. My main priority was to ensure that Niyam remained in the best possible health. He had all of the recommended vaccines, a malaria prophylactic and a few other supplements (like chewable multivitamins and acidophilus). I also packed enough medicinal supplies to open my own clinic. Fortunately, he remained in perfect health throughout (apart from the 5-hour flight from Katavi to Serengeti), so I was spared the wrath of his mother. Between us we had a hand baggage allowance of 20kg which was sufficient for the seven cameras and two pairs of binoculars I was carrying but it meant I had to carry it all myself. The flight out was from London Heathrow to Kilimanjaro, via Nairobi with Kenya Airways. The 8-hour overnight flight to Nairobi landed at the scheduled local time of 6:30am – luckily Niyam slept for six of those hours. Niyam's first animal sighting was at Heathrow Airport The scheduled 8:30am connecting flight to Kilimanjaro was delayed by an hour but this didn’t affect our onward plans. During this flight, Niyam was the first passenger to say, “there’s Kilimanjaro” and he was correct resulting in every passenger turning to their left to view this icon through the windows. I was surprised he recognised it! Kilimanjaro bursting through the clouds Fortunately for us, we passed through Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International airport a few days before a fire caused major disruption. During our trip we learnt that Kenya Airways had their services back up and running within a day of the fire, so I was not concerned about the return journey. On arrival at Kilimanjaro airport, an official was checking that everyone had proof of Yellow Fever vaccination. It was the first time I had experienced this. Outside we met Frank, our Asilia guide, who would be with us for the Mkomazi and Tarangire parts of the safari. Frank had been guiding with Asilia for 9 years, including a lengthy residency stint at Sayari Camp, but had never been to Mkomazi before. Actually, apart from Alex Walker at Serian Camp, I never met another person during this trip that had been to Mkomazi! The journey from Kilimanjaro Airport to the Zange gate (the main but not only gate to the National Park) was about two and a half hours (142 km) travelling via Moshi, Lembeni and Same. Within a few minutes of entering the park, Frank was absolutely fascinated and said it was unlike any place he had seen in Tanzania. Our first sighting was a giraffe followed by a lesser kudu bull. I was so excited just to be on an African dirt track again, that I didn’t bother unpacking the camera! Little did I know that I had just passed up my best opportunity to photograph a lesser kudu for the rest of the trip!
  10. We are planning our second trip to Tanzania for September 21, through October 10, 2015. How long in Katavi and Mahale are pretty much set. We can't imagine fewer than 7 in Katavi nor fewer than 4 in Mahale. Because of flights we expect to do Thursday through Thursday Katavi and Thursday through Monday Mahale. First set of questions focus on Katavi - More than likely we'll spend 4 nights at Chada and do game drives those days. We will have our own vehicle and guide. The other 3 nights are being negotiated. Seems there are limited resources for true, multiday fly camping or walking mobile camps. About all there seems to be through the various TOs we are talking to are the 'canned' 1 or 2 shared fly camp nights. We want to explore as much of Katavi as is practical. Any thoughts or suggestions on how to best use these 3 nights is greatly appreciated. Mahale seems pretty straight forward. We're planning to stay at Greystoke. If there is more to plan for besides chimp tracking, we're all ears. The grand question(s): We'll arrive at NBO late Sunday night. This gives us 3 nights/3days to work with prior to our AM flight to Katavi. Currently we are looking at staying at a Seasonal Camp in the Kogatende area. To make this feasible, we are planning to use the new Coastal flight from Nairobi to the Serengeti. Otherwise, we'll burn all of Monday flying to Dar or Arusha and connecting on to someplace else. Thoughts on the new Coastal flight and our use of these 3 days is appreciated. The Grander question(s): We'll fly out of Mahale on Monday. We don't need to be back to Nairobi until Saturday evening. This gives us 5 nights/ 4 1/2 days to work with. We are currently looking at 4 or 5 nights on a light walking safari in the northern most wilderness zone in the Serengeti. We might finagle a way to stay an extra day so we'd do 3 nights walking in Grumeti WZ area and 3 nights in the Kogatende WZ area. Both of these are very appealing to us but... What would you do with 5 nights originating in Mahale and ending in Nairobi? We considered Ruaha and/or Selous but flights don't seem to be conducive. Besides, they appear to warrant their own trip another time. We'd considered flying north for some Gorilla tracking but no TO has incorporated this as an option. We are looking at Serian or Wayo for the walking safari in the Serengeti. Has anyone any experience with these companies? Do you recommend someone else? Look forward to your thoughts and recommendations. Thanks, GBE
  11. With only two months to go before we set off for a 25-night safari to Tanzania, I was wondering if any ST members had any good tips regarding the interesting areas I should try to explore in Katavi and Mkomazi National Parks. We'll be in Katavi for 7 nights and Mkomazi for 3 nights (both with a private vehicle), so we have some flexibility to explore.
  12. Following British Airways decision to scrap the London Heathrow to Dar es Salaam flight, I decided to drop Ruaha from my itinerary and replace it with a location in northern Tanzania. This meant I could simply book a return flight from Heathrow to Kilimanjaro. I considered all the northern circuit options (most of which I have experienced before) but in the end chose 3 nights at Mkomazi National Park (Babu's Camp). I was drawn to the fact that it was one of the least visited wilderness areas in Tanzania and was one of the entries on my bucket-list. Another advantage is that we land at Kilimanjaro at 9:40am, so we could get to the camp for lunchtime by road. This part of our safari is being managed by Asilia - their guide will pick us up from the airport, privately guide us in Mkomazi, before driving us to and guiding us at Oliver's Camp in Tarangire for 5 nights. The final itinerary is: 3 nights Mkomazi NP (Babu's Camp) 5 nights Tarangire NP (Oliver's Camp) 7 nights Katavi NP (Katavi Wildlife Camp) 10 nights Serengeti NP (Serian Camp, Serengeti North) Mkomazi is one of Tanzania's best locations for landscape photography, so I can put my new "Twaffle and Safaridude-inspired" area of interest into practice. There may also be a slim chance of visiting the wild dog and black rhino projects being run by Tony Fitzjohn's team.
  13. Katavi or Mana Pools? I only ask because lately on both Safaritalk and in some other places I visit, tourists to Mana Pools talk about it being the last truly wild park and extol the virtues of being able to walk, where visitors are few and where the feeling is really wild, however, those fortunate to go to Katavi write in a way which makes me feel that the wild feeling, the walking, the few visitors are at least on a par with Mana if not more so! I would love comparisons because deciding between the two is hard when you haven't visited either. I'm leaning towards Katavi at this stage but it is East Africa so I am biased, I guess. Perhaps we'll leave some of the Zambian parks along with all the other wild parks out of this particular argument for now! However, on that note, I do wonder about the hyperbole sometimes about the 'pristine', 'wildest' and other monikers given … seems a little silly given the number of large and wild areas available to us.

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