Collage of Life

Collage of Life
What you can see...

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

2011 Itinerary about to begin!

Hello to my Blogateers!  I hope you have heard enough of my experiences in Africa from the past.  I am now ready and very excited to begin my new Adventures in Africa 2011!
Our international travels will take us a few days.  We won't be able to add any posts until at least April 3rd, since we land in Nairobi on April 2nd, late in the evening, and probably pretty exhaused.  So, please be patient for new posts until then. 
Right now I can give you a taste of our itinerary for the next three weeks. 
Begin in Nairobi on April 3rd.  Visit with Felix Koskei, Manager/Owner of "Travel Connections" for the day.  Will be talking about how to market his business in America and share information on the travel to come. 
* April 4th, fly to Uganda and stay at Mihingo Safari Lodge at Lake Mburo National Park. Birdwatching and an evening game drive available.
* April 5th, drive to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, stay at Buhoma Lodge for two nights.  On April 6th, our 20th wedding anniversary, take the mountain trek to see the Mountain Gorillas live and in-person!  YEAH
* April 7th, drive to Queen Elizabeth National Park and stay at Mweya Safari Lodge. Take a launch boat cruise on the river to see massive groups of hippos and lots of water birds.
* April 8th, game drive in the morning and drive back to Kampala, stopping at one of the famous drum makers en route to watch drums being crafted using methods passed down for generations.  Cross the equator....Stay at Kampala Serena Hotel for the night
* April 9th, fly back to Nairobi and drive north in Kenya to Sweetwaters Tented Camp.  Game drive that afternoon. First time in a tent!
* April 10th, drive to Shaba National Game Reserve and stay at Sarova Shaba Lodge for two nights.   The habitat here has steep ravines, sandy soils and riverine forest with water springs throughout.  Many giraffe, ostriches, Grevy's Zebra.  Game drives each morning and afternoon.
* Aprl 12th, take small plane flight to south Kenya, Masai Mara National Reserve.  Spend two nights at the Masai Mara Serena Lodge.  This habitat is the Kenyan half of the Great Migration route.  The Mara River is the place that is always depicted in nature shows where the crocs are attacking the Wildebeests and Zebra as they cross over.
* April 14th, leave with a picnic lunch and drive to the border of Tanzania where we cross over to begin our journey in this country.  Spend two nights at Speke Bay Lodge right on the shores of Lake Victoria.  There are activities available like fishing in the lake, taking a boat excursion, or riding mountain bikes.  Bird watching is a popular choice.
* April 16th, drive from Lake Victoria to Serengeti National Park for two nights.  This is the other half of the Great Migration route.  Stay at the Serengeti Serena Lodge.   Game drives each morning and evening.
* April 18th, drive to mountains and NgoroNgoro Crater.  Spend two nights at the Ngorongoro Serena Lodge perched high on the rim of the caldera overlooking the crater below.  Game drives all day down in the crater.
* April 20th, drive from Ngorongoro to Arusha and cross the border into Kenya again.  Spend two nights at the Amboseli National Park and the Serena Lodge there.  Here there are perfect views of Mount Kilimanjaro.  The habitat is grassy savanna and has some primordial swamps and many viewpoints or overlooks to enjoy.
* April 22nd, drive from Amboseli to Nairobi for the flight home that evening.

So there it is....I am excited to get going.  I will be back in touch when we are there!
Bye for now my Blogateers!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Cheetahs and Wild Dogs!

Our last days in South Africa were spent at the Kapama Lodge.  This lodge is huge compared to the others we stayed in.  We had a wonderful suite with an outside wooden deck with chairs and an outside shower stall.  It was totally private and a very good place for Richard to see birds and take pictures.  The main lodge is very modern and open.  The dining area is buffet style and can hold hundreds of people.  Our assigned driver was Brett and he sat with you for your meals.  The game drives in the morning and late afternoons were similar, but there was a couple of special highlights to this location.
First, we arranged for a visit to a Cheetah Rehab Center called Hoedspruit Center.  Here they have many cheetahs who have been orphaned or injured.  All of them are rehabed to go back into the wild.  They take you on a short drive through the gates and explain how they make sure the cheetahs are kept from being "humanized."  They also had a few other animals there that were being "saved" like a tiger who was in a circus and was mistreated.  He now has a home there for life!  The best part here was seeing the Wild Dogs of Africa!  These dogs are very scarce, on the endangered list, and need protection.  We had been hoping to see them in the wild this entire trip, but did not see any.  Here they had a small pack and they were all resting under a large tree during the mid-day sun.  At least we did see some and take a few pictures. 
Secondly, we saw the most magnificent male lion in the prime of his life here at Kapama.  Our driver was able to get us very close to him and his family.  There were about three females and eight young lions of various ages all around him.  They were lounging in a dry river bed when we approached.  We had to go off road using the 4 X 4 to get over and around bushes and trees.  Once stopped to view this scene, we noticed that he gradually moved from the back of the pride to the front where he laid down as a kind of protector of his family.  He watched us, as we watched him....He was beautiful!  His mane was large and fluffy and dark underneath.  Our driver told us he was around 7 years old, in the prime of his life.  He had no scars or wounds and looked as if he was posing for the Hollywood Lion you see in films.  He yawned a few times which gave you a good look at his teeth and how sharp and big they were!

Our trip to the southern part of Africa was complete after Kapama and we headed home.
We do enjoy these safari adventures and know we will go back.  We did take one year off going to India instead to see a Tiger in the wild before they are all gone.  That was quite an experience also.
So, here we are now ready to begin our 2011 African Adventure.  The count down is three days until we take off from Orlando.  Our flights go from Orlando to JFK and there we pick up Swiss Air to fly to Zurich and change planes to Nairobi.  The traveling time takes two days and we won't really arrive in Africa until late on April 2nd. 
Before we leave, I will give you a summary of our itinerary so you can have an overview of our travels to come.  We are now packing and getting the house in order for our cats.
More to come.....the anticipation of our adventure is a great feeling....I love this!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Unwelcome Visitors!

We were now in South Africa in the area known as Kruger National Park.  This is a vast conservation area for animals.  The lodge was called Simbabili.  We were very surprised that we were assigned the newest suite called the "Water Hole Suite."  This was the grandest lodge yet.  We had a large bedroom with king size bed, a huge bathroom with gigantic tub and shower.  A large wooden deck with lounge chairs was in back with a private "Splash Pool" and a large separate living room with two couches overlooking the water hole where animals would come.  Richard called it the "Mother-In-Law" room.  This was so luxurious that it was hard to believe we were out in the bush....
We were off for our first late afternoon game drive around 4 pm.  We saw lots of birds, zebra, impala, warthogs, and best of all, 3 lions sleeping, two males and one female.  They were so relaxed and didn't seem to mind everyone watching them and taking pictures.  We were back for a late dinner around 8:30 pm.  To give you an idea of the fine dining, we had spinach apple soup, chicken breast with bacon and sundried tomatoes, spicy rice and steamed vegies.  Very, very good!  Dessert was apple streudel with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.  When we went back to our suite, we found a visitor on our doorstep...a GIANT SNAIL!
And I mean GIANT!  It was as big as a queen conch is in the Bahamas....
The next day on game drives we were able to complete our Big Five list by seeing two White Rhinos.  Other animals we saw were buffalo, waterbucks, giraffes, wildebeests, deekers, and two leopards.
The next morning we were awakened at 5 am to get up and to our surprise, we had another visitor in our bathtub....A SCORPION!  That was a surprise!  I grabbed a small glass and was able to cover it so it wouldn't move, and as we left we told the manager about it so they could get it out before we got back.  It was good to see it gone when we returned from our game drive. 
Our last game drive in Simbabili was memorable since we found a female leopard up a tree with her night kill, eating her breakfast.  She had it draped over a large limb and we could hear her crunching on the bones and licking and chewing.  We got some great photos of her protecting her meal from anyone interested....
Our last evening meal was held in what they call the "BOMA."  It is a semi circle of tables around a outdoor bonfire.  The ground is sandy and the meal is cooked over the open flame of a BBQ grill.  It is lit by lanterns and candles on the tables (very dark outside).  On nights like this you can see more stars than ever before.  The night sky was cloudless and full of sparkling stars.  The tables are dressed formally with white table cloths and fancy dinnerware.  This was a real treat, and we totally enjoyed our meal of Kudu Brochettes and Ostrich Stew.  
The next day we were on our way to our last lodge called Kapama. 
More to come later.....

Saturday, March 26, 2011

New Years in Zimbabwe

We arrived in Zimbabwe on New Year's Eve.  The Matesi Safari Lodge was located right on the Zambia River.  This river is the one that provides the water for Victoria Falls.  Our "cabin" was an original design.  There were two parts, with a kind of breezeway inbetween.  The first part was the bath with a huge bathtub and all the modern amenities.  The second part was the bedroom with king size bed and lots of windows with screens overlooking the river.  The breezeway had a table and chairs and was also screened in with a large door that opened to the back and river view.  This was the first lodge we saw that offered a private pool.  Not a big size pool, but almost the size of a jaccuzi without the water jets.  The pool was clean and looked pretty inviting.  They call it a private splash pool.  At this lodge we had a game drive in the early morning and during the mid-day, our lunch was delivered to our "cabin" in a multi-tiered picnic type basket and placed on the table.  All the plates and utensils were also brought.  They left us to eat and came back an hour later to collect the baskets and left overs.  We were quite surprised to have this treat....
Since we were right on the Zambia River, we decided to spend the afternoon trying to fish for the world famous Tiger Fish.  The lodge had a pontoon boat and captain and we were off to fish!  The river was quite pristeen, no buildings or garbage along the banks.  There were small bands of monkeys and lots of crocs in the water.  The Tiger Fish are found in this river and professional fishermen come here from all over the world to catch them.  The boat had all the rods and reels and lures.  Richard was quite happy fishing....I tried it for a while but enjoyed looking around and seeing the countryside more.  Unfortunately, we did not catch anything, but it was a great way to spend the afternoon!  We signed up for the sunset cruise on the river later on. 
Since this was New Year's Eve, we really enjoyed our sunset cruise and Richard took some amazing pictures of the purples and reds of the sunset here in this beautiful place.  We were stunned by the intense colors.
After the cruise we went to dinner at the main lodge and then headed back to our "cabin" by being escorted by one of the stewards with a good flashlight!
Something was different....When we opened our door, there were candles lighting the floors, lots of signs made out of local shells, seeds and flowers were on the floor.  The signs said things like "Richard and Ellen a surprise for you" ...We slowly followed the flowers and candles as they lead us to the bathroom.  They said "Customers Forever" and finally it led to the large bathtub that was filled with bubbles!  It said, "Enjoy Your Bath!"  This was a very special present prepared by our house steward and we really enjoyed the artwork and creativity he showed. 
The next morning (New Year's Day) we ate a breakfast and collected box lunches to take with us as we were traveling that day to Victoria Falls. There were some misbehaving monkeys at the main lodge for breakfast.  We watched as they spilled a jug of milk all over and lapped it up quickly before workers could shoo them off.
We were off to see Victoria Falls.  Once there we realized how large this falls was.  The walk from one side to the other was about 2 miles.  We had a private guide, his name was Anderson, and he had some rain ponchos for us.  It was not raining....It was for the falls!   The mist vapors were very strong and they produced a lot of rainbows over the falls.  The views were majestic and very noisy.  Since it was early morning on New Year's Day there were very few people there besides us.  We had the place to ourselves and could take pictures and video where the best views were.  This was a great time to visit!
There is a bridge over the white water below the falls that was now a famous bundgy jumping place.  We did not see anyone do this because it was a holiday, but it looked very scary!
We enjoyed our box lunches and we made it to the local airport in time to fly out to our next destination, Kruger National Park in South Africa.  We were going to a place called Simbabili Lodge. 
More to come later.....

Friday, March 25, 2011


Let's go back now to our safari in Botswana.  After Sandibe in the Okavango Delta we went to Chobe Chiwero Safari Lodge on the banks of the Chobe River and the National Park.  One of the hightlights here was the vast number of elephant herds that roamed freely.  The herds were large and full of female elephants and their young of all ages and sizes.  These elephants had it made here.  There was lots of food and the river was full of fresh water and lots of mud holes to wallow in.  The entire family would go to the river each day and do what was nothing more than frollicking, having a great time.  You could see the young elephants playing and rolling around in the mud.  The older ones were spraying themselves with water and keeping an eye out for the real young ones.  Sometimes the real small babies would walk into deep water for them and unknowingly sink without warning.  Their trunks would be the only thing showing from the water and a female adult would grab it under water and hoist the baby up and out of the deep water.  You can sit and watch these playful elephants for hours without being bored.  This was nature at its best....These elephants had no stress in their lives and were totally free!
We did stay a long time watching and taking pictures of this particular large group of female adults and young.  While leaving the river area, one juvenile male saw us and did his best to charge us with his ears flapping and him trumpeting, but he stopped short and would not be much of a threat.  He was just practicing.  Then another juvenile male saw a large fallen tree limb along the bank of the river.  It was a dead piece of wood, quite long and knarly.  He approached it, and to impress his strength to us, he picked it up in his trunk and lifted it up in the air, mightly showing us his abilities and daring us to get any closer...
We were all impressed with his strength and courage. 
As the whole herd slowly emerged from the river bank and crossed our dirt road back into the bush, we waited until all had crossed over to follow them a while.  Our 4 X 4 diesel was just barely moving forward when we realized that there was one more very large adult female who had not yet crossed the road.  She was not happy with us being in her way and before we knew it, she was charging!  She had open ears flapping and her loud trumpeting was very threatening.  Richard said to our driver, "FLOOR IT!"
It was a good thing he still had the engine on and we were able to get going fast enough to get out of her way.  That was exciting, and a little too close for comfort.  There are times when the driver would turn off the diesel engine so pictures can be taken without the shaking of the engine and it is quieter for the animals, but this time the engine was still running and it was a lucky thing.  I would imagine that this adult elephant could have easily turned our vehicle over with her trunk.  Fortunately, we had a great experience to talk about without any real injuries.  We did get a quick picture of her beginning her charge, a little blurry, but that couldn't be helped....
We enjoyed our stay in Botswana and moved on to our next location Matesi Safari Lodge in Zimbabwe.  There we celebrated the New Year!
More to come.....

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Safari Planning for "Dummies..."

If you decide to see Africa, there are some practical things you need to know.  First, most people ask, "What kind of shots do you need?"  There is only one innoculation that you will need to have before traveling to Africa...The Yellow Fever shot.  These are given out by most of the public health organizations or agencies in your state.  These shots are good for 10 years, so once we had ours in 2007, we do not need to get it again until 2017.  They give you a yellow card with the verification of the shot record and you are good to go.  The only other suggestion I have about shots is that you should get a flu shot just because you will be exposed to many other travelers enroute and a flu shot is a good idea anyway....
The second suggestion is to see your personnel physician for a Malaria Prolaxis.  That is an Rx to prevent Malaria.  There are lots of choices for this, your doctor can help you decide.  We decided on one that you take once a week orally.  You begin 1-2 weeks ahead of your trip and continue taking while away (once a week) and for 3-4 weeks after you return.  This is an easy way to make sure you don't get Malaria.  This is a mosquito borne sickness and that is why they have mosquito nets around your bed at every lodge you stay in.  The netting is always set up for you while you are at dinner and when you leave in the morning, the netting is pulled back out of the way for you by your maid.  I think the nets are kind of romantic at night....
That is all you really need to know as far as medical planning. 
Another question comes up occasionally, "How hard is the trip for someone who is older and may have a disability?"  I have found that taking a safari is very easy...the hardest part is always the travel time to and from your African destination via plane .  The rest is very comfortable and easy on your body.  You get to sit in a vehicle each day and just enjoy the ride!  The lodges even offer such luxuries as massage and or facials.  You have the middle of the day on your own to enjoy a nap or reading....The pace is slow and easy. 
I have been asked about what do you pack for a safari?  Well, that is simple to answer.  You take light weight casual clothes, some long sleeve shirts and long pants, athletic shoes, and a light weight, water resistent jacket.  We included a light weight vest with lots of pockets for gum, camera things, sunglasses, tissues, hand sanitizer.  And don't forget a good hat!  We love our Tilley hats and have used them each time we go on a safari.  See the picture of the happy travelers to see the hats!
Richard found a feather for my hat during a lunch stop.  It was a dark polka-dotted feather from a guinea fowl and even though you are not allowed to take anything from the fields, we did get away with this feather.
When I "retired" recently, on of my friends gave me a pink pith helmet!   I had never seen one like this before.  It brought to mind the old movie where it was said, "Dr. Livingston, I presume?"
I will take a picture of me in this hat and share it with you before I leave.  I do not think I will be taking it on safari...I imagine it would provoke a lot of laughs by the locals....It was a great gift though, and I treasure it.
Just one more practical idea to share with you about traveling to Africa ....If you buy yourself some new underwear before the trip, leave the new ones home and take your old pairs....You can then leave them behind to give you more room in your luggage for all the souvenirs you will buy.  The old socks, underpants, bras can be given to your maid.  They will gladly accept them even though they are used and may be dirty!  So you are doing a good thing and recycling them too.
I will get back to our journal about our trip to Botswana, Zimbabwe, and South Africa tomorrow.  See you then!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

How much is that kitty in the window?

We love Africa!  We have had an epiphany and decided to see more of this vast continent.  We did manage to see some of North Africa, Egpyt...that was in the Spring of 2006.  The history there is fantastic and you can fill your senses with it all.  The sight of the Pyramids and Sphinx, the smell of the burial chambers in the Valley of the Kings, and the feel (with your fingers) of the hyrogliphs in the Temples in Luxor.  You can actually feel the carvings into the stone...made 2300 years ago!
In the winter of 2008-2009 we made arrangements to safari in the south of Africa.  We chose to see Botswana's Okavango Delta and Chobe National Park, Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, and parts of the Kruger National Park in South Africa.
This adventure started out rough.  With winter weather up north, or flight from Orlando to begin our journey was delayed so long that we missed out international flight to Johannesburg.  This just happened to be on Christmas Eve.  So, since we had no other option, we spent the night in Washington DC close to Dulles Airport to try to get on the next flight on Christmas Day.  We must have been the only people in the Crowne Plaza Hotel that night....everyone else was home with their family waiting for Santa.  The next morning, the hotel restaurant was only open for a couple of hours for breakfast due to it being Christmas, so we ate and had to wait until the late afternoon to get booked on the next flight to S. Africa.  We had missed one day on our itinerary, but with travel insurance, we would be reimbursed for this delay and missed time.  So, no worries....
We did make it to S. Africa and spent the night in Pretoria (where I had a taste of ostrich for dinner....won't do that again!) until we could catch a small plane to Botswana.
We finally made it to Sandibe Lodge in Botswana's Okavango Delta the next day.  The habitat here is lush with green vegetation and water.  The dry season was just beginning, so there were still many great animals around. 
The highlight of this place was a ride in a Makoro (shallow canoe type boat).  Richard and I sat in the middle and Gee, our guide and naturalist, poled us through this marshy wetland.  There were lots of reeds and water lillies around.  Gee sang an African song to us as he poled us.  It was a magical experience. 
This place also had the opportunity to take a walking safari.  Gee took us slowly through some bush areas.  He carried a rifle for protection.  There were antelopes around, but he was showing us the wild flowers and wild cukes that were eaten by small mammals. We actually inspected some elephant dung to see that the elephants only digest about 40% of the food they eat.  The other 60% is pooped out and other creatures and birds get the left over seeds and nutrients.  We tried to sneak up on some Impala, but weren't quiet enough and they ran off!
The next day we were off to see another habitat.  This time we met a very small plane on a dirt runway.  We had a breakfast on a snack table and when the plane arrived we boarded to go to Chobe Chiwero Safari Lodge.  This habitat included the Chobe River and there were more trees and green areas.  The animals we saw here included impalas, baboons, elephants (lots and lots), hippos, monitor lizards, and many birds.
The lodge overlooked the river basin and was very beautiful. For dinner we had a choice of filet of beef, fish or warthog!  Richard took the risk of having the warthog.  It was very good....just like pork at home.  It was the next day that we saw our leopard and the rare sighting of a Sable Antelope.
The leopard was walking down the tree, very graceful and strong looking.  I put his picture on this blog, hope you enjoy it!
More to come in Botswana!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Travel Connections gets a A+ !

Our 2007 Safari experience was close to over after a few days exploring the Serengeti.  We had the most memorable time of our lives!  The last night in Nairobi, Kenya, we were asked to dine with our Travel Connections Manager, Felix Koskei.  Felix was our magician, he organized our two weeks perfectly, making special arrangements to visit the school children and making sure our return air flights were confirmed.  He even got our seats in the plane with extra leg room for Richard, which was a blessing for the long journey.  We had a wonderful dinner together with him and his sister.  He asked us if there were any
complaints or suggestions for improvement. We were impressed with his business acumen and concern for our reflections of the journey.  We had no complaints or suggestions for improvement, we even offered to be a reference for the agency if needed. 
We had taken lots of pictures and videos.  We had seen and felt things we had never anticipated.
We vowed that we would return to Africa again, especially to NgoroNgoro to see the lions we met so intimately. 
It didn't take long for us to decide what our next Annual Adventure would be....We would return to Africa.
The next trip we decided to see the South of the Continent, S. Africa, Botswana, and Zimbabwe.  We started planning the trip for the end of December 2008-the first week of January, 2009.  This would be their summer and a good time to travel there.  Would this be as good as the first safari? 
Poli, Poli.....more to come!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Serenity in the Serengeti....

The trip into the Serengeti National Park is like going back in time.  Once in the main gate, the dirt roads begin and you are on a game drive.  We stopped at the gate in a picnic area to have some lunch and get ready for the afternoon drive.  This is a vast plain...there are some rock outcrops scattered around where they were blown from a volcanic action millions of years ago.  And like all cats, these are the places where the lions like to rest overlooking all the lower plain and feeling like "King of the Hill!" 
We began seeing gazelles, zebras, giraffes, and wildebeasts.  We were visiting there before the Great Migration began, but Yusef pointed out that the animals were beginning to gather together in more congregated groups to get ready for the migration.  We stopped to see a leopard sleeping in a tree.  He awoke and stretched, came down slowly, and walked away.  It was like we were not even there.  The Zebra nearby did get agitated from his movements, their heads bobbing up and down to alert all the others. 
We made it to our lodge by sunset and enjoyed an excellent dinner.  The staff there had to escort us to our rooms since wild animals do prowl around and it might be dangerous.  Good to have a flashlight right then!
We did see two Dik-Diks on the way to our room (they are tiny deer like animals. Almost look like miniatures). 
The next morning, we were awaken by African drums to gather at 6 am for a quick coffee and biscuit.  And off we went for an entire day in the Serengeti! We saw some spotted hyenas, impalas, baboons right away.
We had a bigger breakfast on the hood of the car about 10 am and really enjoyed the ambiance!
We did find some lions on a rocky pile looking down on us.  Later we found a mother lion with 3 very young cubs (2-3 months old).  When the cubs ran into the high grass to hide, she started looking for them right away.  The call she made was very different than you would expect....A chirping sound.  I took video so I got that sound on the clip.  We also found a cheetah in the distance sitting under a lone tree for shade.
The hippos we saw were in a pool of water and it seemed that they were playing "peek a boo" with us.
There must have been over 50 hippos within eyeshot.  This was the famous Mara River.  The hippos live there year-round as well as those very large crocodiles.  This is where the Great Migration Drama plays out every year.  The wildebeasts and zebra vs. crocodiles. 
Some of the other animals we saw that day include black-faced monkeys, rock hydrox, a swarm of vultures over a carcass....Boy was that a mad man's nightmare!  Talk about a frenzy! 
By day's end, we were glad to get back to the lodge for a little rest before dinner.  Then a local dance troupe of Masai performed for us.  There were 4 men and 2 women and they were very energetic.
Just a note of interest...there were a group of bats that lived in the main lodge ceiling every night.  While we ate dinner, they began coming in and hanging upside down over us.  I don't believe there is another place in the world where you can eat below bats!  Talk about an experience....

Bucket List Continued

The website I found was for a company named Travel Connections based in Nairobi, Kenya.  Listed there were a variety of itineraries and descriptions of the journey.  The places and lodges I read about seemed very exotic.  What would it be like being out in the wild?
This was in the Spring of 2007.  We made our final plans and we were off on another yearly adventure!
We landed in Nairobi and were greeted right away at the airport and taken to a hotel for a nights rest.  Then the next morning we were met by our personal driver/naturalist, Stanley.  The week that followed was awesome!
We spent a week in Kenya visiting the Samburu tribe and National Park in northern Kenya, then the Mount Kenya area where we stayed in a tree top lodge overlooking a salt lick.  The animals came to us and we watched them come and go from our big picture window in our room.  The staff there asked what animals we would actually want to see overnight, and if they came, the staff would call us and wake us up to see them.  The salt lick had some flood lights that would come on when animals passed by.  This was an interesting way to view the animals.  The rest of the time, we rode around the parks and conservation areas to find animals and birds.  You never know what you are going to see next!  It was always a surprise and we loved it!  They talk about the "Big Five" in Africa.  We did see them all: Rhinos, Hippos, Buffalo, Lion, and Elephants.
Being a social worker, I always seem to want to help people.  This trip was no exception; we brought a small bag full of school supplies with us to give to local children on our journey.  Little did we know that American Bic Pens were like gold to the people in Kenya.  The children we visited were in a Samburu village.  There were about 20 little ones there.  We gave them each a box of crayons, a coloring book, a few pencils, erasers, and pens.  The elders were very grateful for these gifts.  Then we offered everyone a Tootsie Pop
(lollipop).  The children held them in their hands, not quite sure what this new gift was....We opened one and popped it in our mouth and they got the idea!  Even the adults got a lollipop and it seemed the whole village was slurping the candy.  It occured to me that they probably don't have sweets like this very often.  They were slurping and drooling and really enjoying this treat!  We were enjoying their smiles!

Friday, March 18, 2011


You cannot go to a new country without learning some of their language.  The basics are usually easy to learn since you use them a lot.  The hellos, the good byes, the thank yous, etc.  The people in Kenya and Tanzania speak wonderful English.  We had no problems with any communication in these countries.  They do, however speak their own native language, Swahili.  Most of the people are biligual in that way.
Our driver,naturalists were more than happy to share their language with us and we did learn a few, very few, Swahili words.  So, I will share them with you so you will have a heads-up when you visit there.
Of course, everyone knows Hakuma Matata.....The Lion King made that word famous.  It means "no more worries" or "everything is fine now.." 
The most used word is "Jambo"  It means "Hello, Welcome"....Everyone says it to you everyday!  It usually comes with a big smile. 
The next word used a lot is "Asante Sana"... This means "Thank you."  Then "Caribou" that means "Your Welcome."
Richard's favorite word he learned was "Poli,Poli."   It kind of translated into "Take it easy Buddy."  Or
"slowly, slowly." 
We used "Trende" alot also, that means "Let's Go" and we said that when we were out on a game drive and ready to move on to the next place.
I am not sure about the spelling of this word, but is sounded like "Tuffahali" which means "Please."
So there you go, a language lesson that you can use when you take your African Safari!
Make sure you go to to make your choice of country and let me know what questions you might have.  Send me an email at and I will be your travel coordinator!
Tomorrow I will tell you about what it is like in the Serengeti!

Thursday, March 17, 2011


Today marks the 14 day count down for our 2011 African Adventure.  Since we have so much time before the new adventure begins, I have tried to relate how the previous safari adventure from 2007 unfolded.
I talked about the NgoroNgoro Conservation area and how it is a unique habitat.  We spent two nights at this lodge and two entire days exploring the caldera.  The first night there we were treated to a local tribal dance troupe who performed the Masai dances for us.  There were 8 young women and 12 young men who were very good dancers.  They were sharing their cultural heritage with all of us and I felt very honored to see their passionate dancing.  The ladies dance with a motion that somehow bounces their collar beads up and down their necks.  The men dance by jumping vertically, each one trying to outdo the height of the previous dancer.  In all, the effect was dazziling.  The colors of their costumes and jewelry were bright and shiny.
Our days were spent entirely down in the caldera.  We saw crowned cranes looking very hip with their head feathers like punk rockers.  We saw gazelles, osterichs (male and female...the males are very pink!),buffalo, zebra, wildebeests (these do not migrate), jackals, and lions. 
Our second day in the crater was the most memorable time of our entire trip.  I hope I can do it justice in writing.  We were slowly cruising down a dirt path when we saw three male lions resting close to the road.  Yusef said he believed they were young brothers, keeping together as their own pride.  The sun was shining and it was beginning to get warm.  Then one of the lions slowly stood up and headed directly to us in our open 4 X 4.  What was he doing?  Yusef said to be very still.  He kept coming closer until he found the skinny shade right next to our rear tire.  Once he laid back down, a second lion stood and followed him to our vehicle's shade, laying down directly underneath the open back seat window.  The third lion, seeing this, also came and laid next to the front tire.  These were wild lions!  They were within touching distance!  We were holding our breath for a few seconds.  What do you do now?  Yusef said, "Mind yourself."  We looked at each other and then turned to watch the lions so close you could touch them.  At that moment, Richard and I both locked eyes with a lion.  We looked at each other deeply, it is hard to describe other than saying if felt like our souls touched.  They were calm, enjoying the cool shade and watching us as we watched them.
These few moments lasted a good 15 minutes until others came by to see the lions and Yusef  made the decision to put the vehicle in neutral and let it coast away before starting the engine again.  We were so awe struck, we felt something so dramatic had occured.
In the dictionary, Epiphany is described as "a sudden manifestation of the essence or meaning of something."
That evening we were still overcome with the emotion of those moments.  We decided that we had experienced an Epiphany of sorts.  We had communicated with the King of the Beasts on some level that we never knew existed.  This experience has changed us and we are better for it. 
It was good fortune to have taken some pictures of these three brothers and printed them in a large size to hang on our wall at home.  Now we are going to study those pictures before we leave to go back to NgoroNgoro so we may be able to recognize the lions if we see them again.  They will probably not be together, but grown adults on their own with their own prides by now.  I sure hope we can find them.  I will let you know!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

NgoroNgoro, say that 3 times fast!

The roads in Tanzania are new and very good for traveling.  In Kenya, we developed a deep appreciation for the early Conastoga Wagon pioneers who crossed America.  They had to be able to withstand jarring on a daily basis.  We traveled like that for one week and were bone tired!  Of course there was always a reward for the lack of good roads.....the Kenyan countryside and all its animals and grand vistas.
Another stop on our journey in Tanzania was NgoroNgoro Crater.  This was always a little hard to say outloud, but what an impression it makes on you.  This area is a collapsed volcano from a millenia ago.
There is a high rim around a low lying plain.  All the lodges here are built around this rim overlooking the vast plain below.  A spectacular view.  We stayed at the Serena Lodge (most of our lodges were of the Serena chain).  The lodge itself was made of stones found locally and the lodge fits in beautifully with the habitat.  All the rooms overlook the plain below.  What makes this place so special is that the animals "trapped" in this low lying caldera are condensed in a smaller area and are more easily found.  When you leave the lodge in the morning, you take with you a packed lunch because when you go down those slopes, it is an adventure in itself, and the less times you have to do this, the better.  The slopes down are four-wheel drive only.  There are large boulders and only dirt lanes on the mountain's edge.  There are no guard rails, no way to have two way traffic, and you hold on for dear life until you finally get down to the bottom.  This was a very exciting drive!  And you had to make it again at the end of the day going up! 
Even though this habitat is concentrated, there are different places to visit.  There are areas with tall grasses, areas with salt water licks, areas that are arid and areas that are full of vegetation.  We were told that the elephants in this habitat have the longest tusks in the world.  I do believe that is correct; we did see very large-tusked elephants in this area.  We also found a male lion and lioness who were mating.  This activity is constant over a few days, on and off.  They were in the tall brown grass area, but we got a good view when they moved around.  We saw Rhinos from a distance.  They are pretty shy creatures and know that the vehicles can only stay on the dirt roads and cannot make their own roads.  So they stay far away from those well traveled roads.
We enjoyed our picnic lunches at a rest stop.  There are places where you can get out of your vehicle to eat and use the facilities (very crude by the way).  But the rules are that on any safari, you do not get out of the vehicle.  The reason for this is simple.  The animals are used to the shape and sound (diesel engines) of the vehicles and are not afraid of them.  If you were to get out, you would be available as a meal.  That is the reason you can get so close to the animals without fear.  They are not afraid of you, and you do not have to be afraid of them. 
Of course there are some moments that I still remember being a bit scared... Tomorrow I will tell you about how we felt like our souls touched with three male lions.....

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Pythons in Trees!

Some travelers might question why would you want to move around from place to place instead of staying the week in one lodge?  The answer to that is because the lodges and conservation areas are all different habitats.  They range from dry lowlands with little vegetation to wet, lush and sometimes hilly jungle-like vegetation.  And accordingly, the animals and birds differ slightly.  In Tanzania, we visited about three different habitats.  The first ones included areas with the infamous Baobob Trees.  These trees can be thousands of years old.  They look like upside down trees, the roots growing upward.  They, like the acacia trees, symbolize the African vistas we see in the media.  We did not see these trees in Kenya, but did find them in Tanzania.  We also saw a different variety of birds that lived around the salt water lakes. 
While on a game drive one morning, I asked our new driver/naturalist Yusef if there were any pythons in the trees at this park.  I had read that this park had the only ones known to climb trees.  He said he had not seen any and did not know if they existed.  Just a few minutes later as we passed by a large tree, I saw something moving there.  As you do while on safari, you say "STOP!"  Whenever you see something you want to go back to, you just say STOP and the driver stops and backs up to see what was there.  I did see something!
There in the tree was this huge Python!  He was slowing making his way down the tree, moving from branch to branch downward.  I got my digital video camera out and documented his downward slide.  He was very careful to balance his long body on the tree while his head slowly moved closer to the ground.  He was preparing for a drop eventually, but he wanted to make it as easy as possible.  His head hit the ground first, his body slowly moving along a lower limb until most of his weight was on the ground, then PLOP, he was grounded!  That when Richard said, "Let's get going!"  We left there quickly so he couldn't decide to join us in our vehicle.  That was an exciting discovery.  Again, you never know what you will see next!
Travel Connections had done a great job picking our drivers/naturalists.  First we had Stanley in Kenya, and now Yusef in Tanzania.  Both were very knowledgable and friendly.  They took excellent care of us each day and made sure we saw the animals and birds we came to view.  I have attached a picture of me with Yusef having our picnic breakfast one day in the Bush.  What a treat!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Our Great Migration

Most people have heard of the Masai Mara.  This area is part of the landscape of The Great Migration that occurs in Kenya and Tanzania every year.  The Masai Mara is named for the river, the Mara, and the tribe that lives there, the Masai.  We stayed at a lodge in this conservation area for a few days.  Each morning, we were awakened by the sounds of African drums.  We got up very early and headed to the main lodge for a hot tea or coffee and cookie.  We were off and into our private vehicle right away.  The sunrise is wonderful, the vista is breathtaking, and the animals are waking and moving around.  The dirt trails are everywhere.  Our driver and naturalist expert, Stanley, pointed out the various types of birds we saw as well as the many animals....Giraffes, Water Buffaloes, Ostriches, Zebra, Elephants, Gnu (aka Wildebeests), an occasional Lion, Cheetah, or Hyena.  We were totally surprised about the variety of beautiful birds.  We had never seen birds like this.  The Hoopoe, Crowned Crane, Bee Eaters, Kingfishers, and the iridescent wings of the Lilac-Breasted Rollers.  We felt like we were a part of this bigger than life exploration.  We were experiencing our own "Great Migration."
The morning game drive includes a stop with a picnic breakfast.  The lodge provides all the goodies, fresh boiled eggs, hot tea or coffee, cookies, dried fruits and juices.  The atmosphere cannot be duplicated anywhere else in the world. 
The morning drive concludes around 10-11 am and we had the mid-day time on our own.  The lodge offers many options, take a nap, enjoy some of the reading materials in the library, use the computer when available to send emails and check news back home, enjoy a great lunch in the main lodge, talk to fellow travelers. 
I used this time to write a journal entry each day, or compose emails.  The afternoon game drive began right after tea time (around 4 pm).  This English ritual is part of the routine in Kenya and Tanzania, held over from colonial times.  We loved it!  We were off again on the late afternoon game drive to see what was going on in the Bush!  As the light became less, the nocturnal animals were more active, the big cats.  We love cats of all sizes and colors...The mama lions with cubs make a kind of chirping noise very unlikely for a cat.  We had never heard that sound before.... The cheetahs were sleek and very laid back.  The leopards were beginning to stretch and move off their high tree limbs.  These drives are awesome!
We did go to the edge of the Mara River where we saw the huge Crocs that line the water's edge and the Hippos that make the most echoed sound in the recesses of the river.  It was like they were grunting to each other to keep in touch with those around the bend that they could not see.  We were not there during that tumultuluous Great Migration when life and death are at stake, but you could see it in your mind's eye and we were glad that we did not experience any of that.  Mother Nature can be cruel... For those of you who want to see Africa without all the stress and anxiety of the Great Migration, do not go in the summer months. 
Our week in Kenya was about to end.  We were off to see Tanzania...Continued tomorrow!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

What, No Cages?

Since I have a few weeks yet before the new 2011 Adventure begins, I thought I would keep your interest by narrating our previous Adventure back in 2007.  As I mentioned before, we had two weeks in Africa, one in Kenya, and one in Tanzania.  The Kenyan week was first. 
We saw the Samburu Conservation Area, visited the tribal village and gave out school supplies and lollipops, and stayed near Mt. Kenya at the salt lick.  After that, Stanley drove us to the Masai Mara Conservation Area.  That drive took all day, but we learned alot about the local people and did get stuck in mud once.  Richard got out and pushed while Stanley tried to get some traction.  We did fine, but Richard's shoes were caked with thick mud....I am only telling you this because of the wonderful service we received when we finally arrived at the Masai Mara Serena Lodge that evening.  The staff there on check-in noticed his shoes right away.  They offered to clean them and Richard was glad to get them off.  It was dark already and dinner was served, so we cleaned up and went to the lodge dining area to enjoy our meal.  When we returned to our room, the shoes were at the front door, clean as a whistle....
One of the greatest surprises of the safari was the high customer service level at the lodges on this journey.  These places are in the bush, no electricity except from generators.  They are modern, plumbing wonderful, decor fits into the landscapes, and you can get a massage or facial if you want.  The staff are friendly and cheerful.  I love these places!  And the view the next morning from our room picture window took our breath away!  Here was Africa in all its glory...Giraffe walking gently, buffalo lazing in the sun, acacia trees full of birds, the sloping hills down to Mara River.  This was breathtaking!  And no cages!
The animals were at home, we were in the cages (rooms)...What will we see today? 

Friday, March 11, 2011

What's on Your Bucket List?

o many Baby Boomers are at the age of retirement now that the phrase "Bucket List' is becoming more prevelent.  The recent movie with Jack Nickolson and Morgan Freeman about checking off items on their "Bucket List" included an African Safari.....How about that!
We started our traveling adventures when I was about 42 years old.  We bywhere in the Caribbean and then circled S. American, visited Alaska, cruised the Medititeranian Sea and the Baltic Oceans.  We saw New Zealand and Australia.  All these wonderful cruises gave us great memories and our passion for travel increased.  The only problem with cruises is that you can only see the coastlines, and a short distance inland.  You miss the interior parts.  We decided it was time to see some inland destinations.
Now, our travel passion really didn't have anything to do with a "Bucket List" at that time, but as we get older, this so called list has become active in my mind.  Even though we have seen around 52 different countries so far, there are still so many more to visit.  So, now I seem to be creating a "Bucket List" in my head. 
How did we decide to see Africa?  Well, it occured to me that I would love an African Safari.  Some people said to me, "Why would you go on a Safari?"  I said back, "Why wouldn't you like to go on a Safari?" 
It seems to me that this adventure would be on everyone's "Bucket List."  I went to the internet and typed in African Safari to see what was out there....WOW!  There are lots of places you can go on Safari in Africa.
What do you choose?  How do you choose? 
I find the research part of planning an adventure like this very exciting.  The names and places are all unfamiliar and yet you remember seeing or reading something about that on the Discover Channel or in the National Geographic Magazines.  The Great Migration...I knew about that.  I looked for places in East Africa where this event happens each year.  I ended up at a website:  where I found the perfect travel agent and agency to plan our first African Safari!!  We were going to Kenya and Tanzania and I was totally ready!  I was going to check off something on our "Bucket List!" 
Continued tomorrow......

Thursday, March 10, 2011

21 Days and Counting

The Traveling Lynches are beginning the countdown to the 2011 Adventure in Africa.  The itinerary is set, the international flights are booked and our spirits are high!  We have gathered new safari clothes, mostly long pants, light and easy to pack, as well as long sleeve shirts with lots and lots of pockets.  It is amazing how pockets can come in handly while in the African Bush!
We are determined to pack lightly, even though we will be gone for 23 days.  We are bringing our digital video camera and Richard's new Nikon 7000 digital camera for stills.  We want lots of pictures to share and video to watch later. 
Packing for this trip will be interesting. The weather will be variable, from 84 F highs to 60 F lows.  And in the higher elevations, cooler and wetter.  We did find some good rain ponchos on line for the Mountain Gorilla trek since they indicate that the weather may be wet.  The Impenetrable Forest where we will try to find them is in Uganda, and we have never been there before.  It has worked out that the very day we make this mountain climb will be our 20th Wedding Anniversary!  When I think back to our Wedding Day (April 6th), I wonder if Richard ever suspected I would have him climbing mountains in Uganda to sit among the Mountain Gorillas on our 20th Anniversary.  He would probably not believe it if it had been forseen! 
Life sure is wonderful!
I will be adding more each day to this journal/blog and I hope you will follow along.  There will be lots to share and excitement to unfold.