Prior to departure
Safari Drive was a big help in arranging and preparing the trip. I have sent them quite a few questions and always got a good response. One minor thing was that I sometimes didn't know who to contact and had to forward message to info@.. when I didn't get a reply. But when I did so I always got a reply from someone quickly.
We were sent our itinerary and all the information and lovely maps of the parks prior to departure.
Feb 2 - Flight Amsterdam to Kilimanjaro, stay at River Trees
- I just love the fact that the plane 'parks' right in front of arrival hall and you just walk to there.
- We got visa on arrival, which worked out just fine without to long a wait.
We flew with KLM from Amsterdam to Kilimanjaro, arrival 23:50 local time. I had decided to get a visum on arrival and that worked out just fine. They handed out the application forms for the visa in the plane as well as the migration form to fill out. We were out of the plane quite quickly and the wait for the visa was not long at all. They actually had opened up all the immigration booths so everything went quite quickly. (last time I arrived there they only opened up 2 so it took much longer). We even still had to wait for our luggage to appear on the belt, so it was definitely a good choice to get the visa on arrival.
Once we picked up our luggage we went outside and were met by 30 or 40 drivers all with printed out papers with names. Glancing them all over our eyes stopped at the nicest of them all; a driver standing in safari uniform with a wooden pannel with our names written on it. So far so good!
He let us to his mini-bus and gave us a wet towel to freshen up. It's such a small gesture yet so much pleasure!
It took around 30 minutes to drive us to the lodge, which is situated near Usa River. There we were welcomed by an english (I think) lady who was there just for our late arrival. Again some wet towels to freshen up and some juice while we were explained how things worked around there and to fill in some paperwork. We we're told that breakfast was available till 9:30, and that she would let people know we came in late so we could have breakfast as late as possible. We were then taken to our cottage, which was absolutely lovely. It was huge and quite private, and we could hear the river rushing right underneath.
I always think it's kinda nice to arrive in the dark; it gives a special feeling and experience, and only when you wake up the next day you'll know exactly where you are and how it looks
Feb 3 - Pick up our car, relax at River Trees
- We get briefed on our car by the lovely Liz and Mike
- We relax and enjoy the Blue Monkeys playing in the tree in front of our cottage
After a lovely night of sleep we woke up early enough to be able to have breakfast at 9. When we got to the breakfast buffet, we quickly decided that we wanted to sit outside (I can't believe the people that want to sit 'inside'/under the roof while being in africa!) instead of under the roofed area.
All people were very helpful and seemed to know we had arrived late.
After a lovely breakfast we walked a bit around the area of River Trees, which is really really nice. We had arranged for a pickup of 11 o'clock to take us to our car. We were met at River Trees by Mike, who would take us to his house where his wife is taking care of the Safari Drive business. It was a short but lovely drive to an estate nearby. There we were met by Liz, who would be taking care of everything and explained all the things we could think of in great detail. After the briefing we are shown around the car, which is packed with everything we could imagine to be needing when out there on safari. We are shown how to setup the roofed tent (very VERY easy!) and at around 3 o 'clock we head back to River Trees.
I had planned to go to Arusha on this day, especially to go to an ATM so we wouldn't have to bother the next day prior to our departure. However, Liz ensured us there would be 3 different ATMs in the Shoprite area so we could just get our cash the next day before shopping. This was really great as we had no desire to get into a busy city, but just wanted to relax a bit more at the really lovely River Trees!.
While driving back we saw our first game already on the estate, but my girlfriend was busy driving and more or less only had an interest in the car at that point haha!
But I did have her stop and we looked at some Wildebeest, Eland en Grant Gazelle's.
Back at the lodge we have some late lunch and relax at the terras of our cottage. We got a private show from a group of Blue Monkeys that entertained us for over an hour in the tree right behind our cottage. Sitting there with our bino's watching the babies and little ones play was wonderful.
Later that night we have a very nice buffet diner under the stars and we go to bed to have a good rest before heading of to Tarangire the next day!
Feb 4 - The adventure starts; drive to Tarangire, stay at Mibuyu Special Campsite
- Shop at Shoprite
- Spotting a leopard
One thing you need to think of when panning your trip is the times you enter/leave the different parks. Entry fees are payed per 24 hours, so you need to keep that in mind. Because we would have a long drive from Empaakai to our camp in the serengeti later in our trip, we calculated from that and decided it would be wise to not enter the NCAA to early and therefor the same for Tarangire.
So we decided to do some shopping first and head off to tarangire where we would arrive at around 13:30.
We woke up at 7am and had a relaxed breakfast and we departed at 9.00. We knew Arusha would be very busy around this hour, but we had no rush so we just tried to stay calm and relax no matter what It took us an hour to reach Shoprite.
Arriving at Shoprite we first used the ATM to get us some cash for the groceries and the Diesel we would need later on. We already had taken dollars with us so we didn't need much.
We already had a basic 'starter kit' with canned food etc. so we basically needed frozen meet and fresh vegetables and some wine/beer/soda. And water... .lot's of water!
I calculated we would need around 3liters per person per day, but didn't want to take that much with us in regards to space in the car. (we would be able to buy water in Karatu as well)
After an hour of shopping we left for Tarangire at around 11 o'clock. The adventure was really starting now!
We arrived at Tarangire at 13:30 and did the paperwork and payed the park fees (Mastercard).
We then drove slowly to Tarangire Safari Lodge to have a nice lunch and rest there. It was very hot but since it was the first safai for my girlfriend we did a gamedrive anyway and stopped for everything we saw; Giraffes, warthogs, a group of baboons with a little one and of course the first group of elephants. We arrived at Safari Lodge at 15:00 and had a nice lunch and enjoyed the marvelous view.
I must say It was not as green as I had expected. I guess last time I was earlier in the season and that makes a noticable difference.
We had a nice rest, enjoyed the view and headed out at 16:30 to slowly drive towards our campsite.
After crossing the river we noticed 3 cars standing still and we pulled over to see what they were looking at; a leopard lying in a tree! Such luck! After a while he even stood up and jumped down from the tree and soon disappeared in the thickets. I couldn't believe our luck, especially for my girlfriend; first day of her first safari and already spotted a leopard! (it took me 3 safari's to spot my first leopard )
Then we drive towards our campsite. We ignore the signpost and follow our map and GPS that both suggest that the other route is a better road. Soon it gets very quiet with cars (we only see 1) and also with animals. Seems like this area has little game, even though we can see the signs of elephants everywhere (dung and broken trees). The last bit to our campsite the road is really REALLY bad and we have to drive at walking pace to get over the rocks and bumps and finally hit an open area. There is no sign that it this is the campsite, but the road stops here and there are a few places where there was a campfire so this should be the place. Still a bit nervous we park the car and get out to set up everything. It feels a bit weird; you never are allowed to get out of your vehicle, but here you do it anyway and even in the dark.
My girlfriend is a bit nervous and wants to keep the light that is on the side of the car on. It's a big light and it attrackts many insects. The sky gets clear and I am taking some pictures of the sky and the Large Magellanic Cloud, which I see for the first time of my live. We hear hyena's in the distance, but they are clearly far away.
Because we had a very late lunch we don't really feel hungry so we are just snacking some crackers and raw carrots and stuff instead of cooking diner.
We then pack up everything before going to bed. Can't leave anything outside because of hyena's and baboons obviously. Also because we want to be able to leave quickly the next morning.
Feb. 5 - Full day gamedriving in Tarangir - stay another night at Mibuyu SC
We set our alarm at 5:45, but when we wake up it is still very dark so we snooze a bit. And some more. And some more... eventually we get up at 7. A bit later than I would have liked, but I also want this trip to be relaxed so it's ok. We get up, cook some water for tea/coffee and pack everything up. As it is the first time this takes some time (we would get some routine in later on and do it faster).
We depart our campsite at 8:30. We drive to the river and decide to go for the 'small loop' close to the river. It takes a while to reach the river and we spot a lot of elephants. Obviously the park is known for it's many elephants, but Im still impressed by the number of herds we see. And almost every heard has a very tiny young one amongst them. They are just so cute!
We also see many many white storks walking around eating insects. Also many warthogs again. A few impala but not as much as I remembered there to be.
At around 13:30 we go to the picknick site and we set out to cook our lunch. Some chicken curry with raw vegetables. I had to 'fight off' the vervet monkeys that were very much interested in our food as well, and they managed to get an onion. Not sure if they will like that lol..
At 15:30 we head off again and drive on the right side of the river and we want to go via Tarangire Hill. Very soon it is very quiet with cars again, it's so nice to be out there on your own! At one point the road seems to stop and there is a track that probably a handful of cars made into the bush. We decide to follow that track which is a bit exciting. After a while we end up at the road again so everything is ok. These are the exciting things of driving on your own I guess
Along the way we are bugged by many many tsetse flies. They seem to like me very much and sting me a lot. At one point we decide to close the windows and kill all the flies that are in the car. Luckily we have airco so we can drive around with closed windows. The route and scenery around Tarangire Hill is really beautiful! We see more white storks, elephants and girafs as well as some Hartebeest and even a klipspringer. At 17:30 we arrive at our campsite again, and notice that there is another car with 'self-drivers' on our spot! After checking up with them it seems they have a reservation as well and since there is no ranger station nearby we decide the campsite is big enough for the 2 of us and we put our car a bit further behind some bushes and still have some privacy. (Later we would learn that the rangers seem to think the campsite is big enough for 2 people camping there 'privately' so it was no error. Something to keep in mind in the future as I definitely think it is less nice having 'others' there)
We are a bit hesitant to go outside because of the tsetse flies, but a bit of insect repellant candles seem to help a bit and we quickly start a fire and burn some elephant dung that drives of the flies as well. After sunset they are gone anyway so it's all not that bad. We brought a 'shower' (which is a black bag with 25 liters of water and a hose ) and we take a nice shower. The water is quite warm from the sun and and it's nice to refresh ourselves.
This evening we decide to keep the big light off and enjoy the fire and we put some potatoes in the fire for 'diner' . Again we pack-up everything and head of to bed.
Feb. 6. Gamedrive Tarangire and head of for Ngorongoro crater rim. - Stay at Simba A public campsite
- park at the riverside for 1,5 hours and see 3 groups of elephant come for a drink.
- loosing water and getting a bit anxious if everything is alright with the car...
- my camera breaks down
- we have a hyena playing round our car at night
We already got some routine and the packing up and leaving is already quicker than yesterday. We are heading out at 7 o'clock so we are out just when the sun comes up. The light is just beautiful and quite quickly we see a group of elephant coming our way and crossing the road. We decide to go to the river and follow the right side circuit this time. Quite early there is a place where you can park very close to the river and we decide to heave our morning cup of coffee and tea there and just wait for animals to come to the river. There is only one other car there so again it's nice to be out there 'on your own'. The waiting pays off; in 1,5 hours there are 3 groups of elephant that come to the river to have a drink. 1 group at a time as if they were following a schedule. It was marvelous to see these animals so relaxed and the little ones amongst them. 1 was even still so young that it didn't figure out how to use it's trunk yet and it got on it's knees to drink from the river with it's mouth directly. So cute!
After a while we continue on our way and cross the river and drive via the picknick site back to the entrance. Taking some detours into the 'small serengeti' and there we spot the first zebra in the distance. These are one of the favourites of my girlfriend so this was very nice! But I ensured her we would be seeing lot's of them in the Serengeti
At around 12:30 we arrive at the gate and we depart to go to Ngorongoro.
When we stop at the viewpoint over Lake Manyara we notice that we are leaking water under our car. We open the hood and the water inside the cooling canister is boiling. However, the gauge is indicating that the engine is not overheated so everything seems fine. We decide to head on to see if the problem is temporary. We tank for fuel in Karatu and see that we are still loosing some water. We more or less 'forget' to restock on some supplies because of the stress for the car. We head on to towards the gate where we decide to phone Liz (of Safari Drive) to see if we should go into the NCAA or stay out and get it fixed. After some discussions with the mechanic and a lot of help of some friendly guides and others we decide we should be fine and head on.
At the gate there is some confusion about 40$ we need to pay extra. We already payed our NCAA fees and we have the smartcard so this is a bit confusing. In the end it seems to be that we should be the 40$ for the 2 days of walking we are going to do near Empakaai. Again we call Liz and she ensures us that we can pay the fees and we get it refunded later on.
Luckily all the stories about not being able to use cash seem false and we pay the $40 in cash. (there even is a special 'cash only' desk at the entrance...)
When we reach the view point at the crater rim we notice a LOT of water underneath the car again. We stop and take a look under the hood again when another guide and guest approach us. The guest seems to know the car quite well and feels the water and ensures us this is normal and it is just water from the airconditioning. Slightly relieved we head on, but we are still a bit worried since the power of the engine is not consistent as well at times.
We arrive at Simba A Public campsite which seems very nice. It is very big so you still have a bit of privacy. And even facilities!
We talk to some nice people that are there as well. I prepare some lunch for the next day when we head into the crater, and I cook diner. (Pasta) We met another Dutch couple that is self driving for 3 months all over africa and they have some drinks with us that night. I start photographing the night sky again but my camera is failing and seems broken. Luckily I have the old model as backup so I can still continue photographing, but unfortunately the Nikon D70s is not suitable for night sky pictures.
After a very nice evening we get to bed a bit later then we wanted to, as we want to be at the crater floor as early as possible! In the middle of the night we wake up as there is a hyena close to our car. It obviously has grabbed something and it's playing with it. We can hear the sounds and see it's silhouette like a dog shaking it's head with something in it's mouth. Meanwhile making the 'laughing' noise they make when being excited. This was really funny and marvelous to witness!
Feb 7. Troubles with the car and go down to the crater floor, stay another night at Simba A
- We have trouble with the car but it is solved
- We enjoy the crater floor, and it is NOT busy at all!?
- We got scared by an elephant that 'sneaked' up on us at our campsite.
We are getting better and faster at getting up and leaving every day. We head off at around 7 to the tourist office to pick up a guide. There is no one at the office but there are a few people lingering around. One is willing to help us and phones up someone that could guide us. I'm not sure if this is all officially as it should be, but we are getting a friendly guy that helps us out a lot so it's all fine by me
When we head off towards the entrance of the crater we have a real problem with the car: the motor is overheating. We notice that all the cooling water is gone, we refill and after 2 kilometers the same thing: all the water is gone. We decide to head back slowly towards the village that is close to the tourist info office. There is a 'good mechanic' there that should be able to help us out. They are taking a look at the car and we call our mechanic. The mechanic is talking to the mechanics that are working on our car and that seems to go alright. Long story short: the cap of the cooling tank is broken and we need a new one. Luckily we are able to 'rent' one of another car that is standing still that day anyway. It's a lot of money (70.0000 shilling) but Liz tells us to take the deal, we will be refunded. Meanwhile our mechanic will make sure there is a new cap coming our way. So 4 hours later we are still able to go down to the crater floor. The car is still having a bit of a problem with the 'power not being consistent' but according to our guide this is most likely due to bad fuel.
I'm quite disappointed since I booked 2 nights at the crater rim especially to be able to be at the crater floor as early as possible. But of course I'm also glad that we are even able to go.
Somehow it is not busy at all in the crater, which is a surprise to me.
Obviously we see lot's of game. And lot's of zebra, quite many with small ones as well. We even see the first baby wildebeest! This is good news as we anticipated to see many in the serengeti as well.
When we are at the lunch spot we are alone!! this is just really weird. Of course we are 'late', but being alone at the lunchspot is something I did not expect. But it's very nice of course!
After our lunch we see our first lions and many hyena's.
Unfortunately the ascent road is closed and we need to use the road at the other side of the crater. It's quite a ride back around the crater rim. Luckily our guide is driving very well and this gives us some confidence in our car again. No more problems!
When we arrive back at the village where they helped us it turns out they had the mechanic go to Karatu and get a new cap for us. So now everything is solved and we our good to go!
Since it has been raining all the tents at Simba A are setup on 'higher ground' and we are able to park and camp in the same spot as yesterday which is now even more remote and private.
We eat some leftovers of yesterday and when I'm doing the dishes I hear a noise. I turn on my 'headlight' and there is a big elephant standing just 3 meters away!! Wow, we didn't hear or see him coming! This scares especially my girlfriend who is really afraid and wants to turn on the light. A bit distracted by hear fear I'm not thinking clearly and let hear turn on the light of the car. This scares the elephant and he's walking away. I was a bit dissapointed that we scared him off while he was completely relaxed, but of course I understand my girlfriend for whom it's the first time to encounter an elephant this close.
Later on I see many eyes walking around and looking at us. I think these are Genet, but can't be sure as I only saw eyes moving around.
The sky is perfectly clear (again) and this is just amazing. Without any (real) light pollution it's amazing how clear you can see the milky way, the Large Magellanic Cloud and all kinds of objects in there.
Tonight I also call our guide for the next 2 days to check what the plan is. It seems a bit confusing as he is asking us what our itinerary says and what we want to do, while we were under the impression he would have a plan. I decide that we would have the discussion the next day since we have to pick him up close by anyway.
We go to bed at 22:00 and it's cold!
Feb 8, Drive to Empaakai, walk at Olmoti, stay at Empaakai Special Campsite
We wake up at sunrise and witness it from our tent. Beautiful!
We get up, pack our things and refill our water tank. At 8 o'clock we pick up our guide Francis, who is a Masai and speaks perfect English. We pick him up at the turn-of towards Endulin, which is only 5minutes from Simba A.
With Francis we discuss what we want to do. Apparently it's unusual to have 2 nights at Empaakai, since you can only do a walk down to the crater floor and all around the lake and that takes only 1 day. We decide that we do a walk at Olmoti, since we are passing there and it seems to be beautiful as well. Francis is a bit conceirned that we don't have enough to fill our time, but we are actually looking forward to some relaxing time so we're fine with arriving early in camp.
Francis is a bit unclear about picking up a ranger and he would remain unclear about that: he keeps saying that we need to pick one up, but without one is fine as well since the local people are allowed to do walks as well (?) and so we are fine with him and local friends there.
We're fine with that, and after meeting a drunk and inadequate ranger near Olmoti I think we are better of with Francis and whatever he seems to be arranging
We stop at Nainokanoka village and do a walk of a few hours up Olmoti. it is really beautiful. A few masai that are around there join us when we sit down to enjoy the view.
We then cary on to Empaakai. The drive from Olmoti to Empaakai is absolutely wonderful. It reminds me of the Piyaya region, soft green hills with some wildlife scattered around as well as small masai villages. (Boma's)
It's nice that we have Francis with us who is talking about his life as a masai a bit and explains us a lot of things.
When we arrive at our campsite the other's are not there yet to setup the camp. We wait a bit till they arrive and while they are setting up the mobile camp, I go for a walk around the crater rim a bit. It is very hot however and a hard walk with steep ascents. We decide to go back quite quickly and relax a bit at the camp.
It's very nice to be taken care of and not having to cook yourself and do the dishes etc! We enjoy a lovely diner. Strangely enough they only seem to have brought beer with them, so we are lucky we have our own supplies with us and are able to enjoy some wine with diner
That night would be a very cold night, even more cold than on the ngoronngoro crater rim I would say.
Edited by nikao, 01 March 2013 - 04:43 PM.