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Thanksgiving Adventure Daily Description

 

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This is a description of our Thanksgiving African Journey taking us from Mount Kilimanjaro through the northern wildlife ecosystems of Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengeti Plains.  The trip is planned to take advantage of the end of the dry season and the spectacular migration event of wildebeest moving into the Serengeti from the north. This is also an excellent time to be in Tanzania, as the weather is good; the dry season congregates wildlife at watering holes for easy game viewing; there are few other visitors to the parks at this time; the airfares are low; and the best lodges are available. We have also timed this safari to spend Thanksgiving in the Serengeti – a bit different perhaps, but for some, a welcome break from the hustle and stress of the holiday season!

 

Come join us on a unique safari adventure, that combines classic expedition style safari camping with premier lodge accommodations in the most spectacular wildlife areas in the world – and get your Christmas shopping done early!

 

Safari Style

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Our group safaris are designed for active people of any age.  Although our safaris are comfortable and at times “luxurious,” they are planned and designed to emphasize the quality and depth of the experience rather than simply to maximize luxury.

 

Although we have carefully planned this itinerary to share with you as much as we can, all activities described in this itinerary should be considered optional. Anyone who wants to take a break from the group to relax and read a book under a tree while the camp crew makes some popcorn, is welcome.

Costs and Group Size

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The cost for this safari is $2,150 for a full seven-day safari, and $2,945 for a full ten days of exploring northern Tanzania. We are constantly looking for ways to bring the best safari for a reasonable price and are working with our providers for the best deal possible. This cost does not include international airfare, visas or driver tips. The cost is based on a maximum group size of 15, and a minimum group size of 8.  Reservations are made with a $500 deposit.  The safari cost includes virtually everything from when you arrive in country until you depart, including meals, accommodations, transport, park fees, guides, and even some tips.

 

Safari Schedule and Description

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What follows is a description of the safari including the west Kilimanjaro option beginning on November 16. The seven-day safari begins on November 19.

 

Nov 16:  Arrive in the morning via London or Amsterdam. Your flight arrangements may be different depending on you travel plans, but the safari begins in the morning in Arusha. If you have arrived earlier, maybe by KLM the previous night, we will meet you in Arusha where we took you to the previous night, and we will all go to the Kilimanjaro Airport to meet the rest of the group arriving. There, we will be taken directly to Ndarakwai Reserve. The camp is a permanent tented lodge on an 11,000-acre private reserve. With view of both Mt. Kilimanjaro and Mt. Meru, the camp is nestled in a lush forest of towering fig, podo, and yellow-barked acacias that line the seasonal Ngare Nairobi River. Facilities include spacious tents with thatched roofs, en suite bathrooms, and a large separate dining area with two fireplaces that are wonderful to sit around later in the evening.

 

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We’ll have lunch, introductions and go unpack. There are two more full days here, with plenty of time to explore this old colonial ranch, either by vehicle, mountain bike or foot. The afternoon will be free to relax, take naps and recover from the long travel, go on game drives or a walk around the area. We can even go over to the neighbor’s, a Maasai boma (village compound), for a visit in the late afternoon when they bring in the cattle for the night. There is a tree house over a large watering hole that is a wonderful place to spend time laying around, reading a book, and watching the elephant that come by to drink. Last year, we didn’t even make it to the tree house for a day because there was a herd of 83 elephants and we spent the first afternoon wandering around with them.

 

Come back to camp where we’ll gather around a campfire at dusk for snacks and sundowners. There is a fantastic dinner waiting for us. You will absolutely amazed at the good food produced here and throughout the safari, especially after you tour the kitchen here at Ndarakwai, or later while camping in the Serengeti. It’s been a long time traveling and chances are you’ll want to turn in pretty soon after dinner, but don’t forget to tell the staff what time you want you tea or coffee delivered to your tent in the morning. 

 

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Nov 17: Wake up in a beautiful place, tucked on the lower west slope of Kilimanjaro. Breakfast is at 8:30 AM.  If you so choose, you can get up at dawn and do an early morning game drive with one of the guides, and return for breakfast.  Most people think this is a darn good idea. You might prefer to stay on your porch sipping you tea and watch the morning begin. Sometimes you might see a troop of baboons playing in the meadow outside of your tent. One year, the first person in our group to see an elephant was one who didn’t go on the game drive and was just sitting having a cup of tea while an elephant walked on by. After breakfast there will be plenty of time for more game drives, or a walking safari around the reserve.

 

There is no real need for everyone to stick together here in the reserve, once we have our bearings.  Just explore and have fun.  There are a few mountain bikes that are available to ride around the reserve on. There is nothing like mountain biking in Africa. Grab your bird book, binos and go for a walk with one of the reserve rangers. They know their birds, where to find them, and they are very handy to have around if you come up to a herd of elephant. Or go up to the tree house over the watering hole and wait for a herd of elephants to come by. Tell the camp crew if you need a picnic lunch or expect to be back for lunch. We’ve had clients who have spent all day up there watching as the game in the area came by for a drink. Always go with a guide or ranger and communicate with the rest of the group.  We will all be in constant radio contact with each other for safety and to communicate if you find something cool.

 

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There is also a 7 year old baby orphaned elephant at the reserve that was found separated from its mother.  Peter Jones, the reserve owner, rescued her and has nursed her back to health with special milk from Nairobi and round-the-clock care.  Like all 7 year olds she is playful and full of herself.  She loves sniffing visitors and getting lots of attention.  She is now with a herd, but she often comes by to visit, and if we are lucky we can see her when she is there.

 

There is a local school we can go visit if people are interested. We first visited it on the Family Explorer two summer’s ago. At first it was a bit awkward, all the students standing around looking at us and our kids, but a soccer ball came out, teams were chosen and a rousing game of soccer quickly ensued with one of our drivers officiating. The girls started showing the moms some of their games, and one of our mom's, who is a pre-school teacher when not on safari, showed them all the hokey pokey. There was a tug of war and major jump roping. At one point we had five kids jumping the rope until they all fell down from laughing too hard. All too soon it was time for the kids to start walking home and so we left, promising to come back again with a new soccer ball and some reading books, which the school sorely needs.

 

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We’ve been coming back since, bringing those books and school supplies. We have also secured pledges to help support a lunch program and to develop a well and storage tank to improve their water system. The kids are great, the teachers dedicated, and the school slowly improving. It’s a good place to visit.

 

There is also a Maasai boma (village) nearby that we can visit. It's fun to go there around sunset as the Maasai are bringing in the cattle for the night and milking them. into the gords. Thomas, who is also a Maasai elder, can explain many aspects of village living and some of the issues being faced by these people in these modern times.

 

Another evening and dinner, There are animal researchers living on the ranch that often come and it’s time for stories and plans for the next day. If you’re not sleepy, head off with a guide for a night game drive or a visit to the tree house.

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Nov 18:  Today will be more time to explore the reserve and the surrounding area or you can choose to take an optional day trip up the slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro. This will be an all-day trip, but is completely optional. For the Kili hike we will drive to the Londorosi Gate in the Land Rovers, about an hour away, then work our way up to the Shira Plateau -- an absolutely beautiful area all the way. Farmlands give way to alpine and montane forests, which then yields to high altitude shrub and flowers above the tree line. It’s Kilimanjaro! Final elevation for the hike will be about 10,000 - 11,000 ft. We can bring the mountain bikes and ride down from the park gates to our camp. It’s a great ride!

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Nov 19:  A travel day. We leave Ndarakwai after breakfast and head to Tarangire National Park with a stop in Arusha for lunch and to pick up the folks who are arriving for the seven-day safari. We’ll meet everybody at the airport and then head into Arusha for lunch. There is often a African crafts fair in Arusha at this time of year on this weekend. If there is, we can stop there and get a lot of Christmas shopping done.  Otherwise, we’ll head over to Stiggy’s, a great restaurant and bar run by an Australian bloke. If he has fresh crab, I’d certainly suggest you order it, but if you don’t like crab, don’t worry because everything is good. After lunch, we head out of Arusha for a two-hour drive to Tarangire National Park.

 

Tarangire is one of my favorite parks in East Africa. There is just something about it. It’s laid back, wild and it always makes you feel like you’re the only ones there. Big fat baobob trees dot the landscape, elephants roll in the mud down at the river, and prides of lions swagger around like they own the place…and they do!

 

Once in the park, we will make our way to the Tarangire Safari Lodge overlooking the Tarangire River. Chances are it will take awhile to get from the gate to the lodge since we like to stop for the herds of elephant, the zebra and all the other animals that abound in the park. The Safari Lodge is real rustic elegance. It’s classic Africa, canvas tents with all the modern conveniences, plus an amazing deck looking out over the Tarangire River. A wonderful place to end the day, watching the sunset, and recounting the day over a cold one.

 

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Nov 20:  If you are up for it, get up at dawn and go on the deck to watch the sunrise. The chorus of thousands of birds waking to the day and singing the sun up while sipping your morning tea is an absolutely wonderful way to start the day. After breakfast, on to explore this amazing park, which straddles the Tarangire River. During the dry season it is the main water source for the wildlife, so prides of lions take up residence near the river and wait for lunch “on-the-hoof” to come to them. There are also lots of elephants, giraffe, wildebeest, baboons, zebra and hyenas to be seen here, in addition to an amazing array of bird life.

 

We can have a picnic lunch or come back to the lodge for a sumptuous meal. After a lazy lunch and a few hours of relaxing around the pool, we will resume our safari adventure with an afternoon/early evening game drive. Wildlife are usually the least active during mid-day, so this is our time to relax also. A late afternoon game drive, another great meal, some stories on the deck under African stars, and the end of another fine day at Tarangire.

 

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Nov 21: Those who caught up on their sleep the previous morning have another chance for an early morning game drive before breakfast today.  We will be heading towards the Great Rift Valley after breakfast in our trusty Land Rovers, and head east towards Lake Manyara and up the rift valley escarpment to the Ngorongoro highlands. Along the way, we will stop for lunch at a small town called Mto wa Mbu. Here we will have the opportunity to explore the local community on a two- or three-hour walking tour.  This is your chance to visit some local villages, meet the Tanzanian people in their own environment and perhaps sample some banana beer with the locals.  There is a bustling market here, and lots of things to see, do and buy. This is a good place to pick up some of those gifts that you wanted to bring back to the States. This is also perhaps the best place in the world to buy bananas…red ones, yellow ones, green ones; short, long, fat or thin. They got ‘em all.  Try the ones called ice cream bananas! 

 

Later we will continue our journey to the Ngorongoro Highlands and on to the Crater rim. Ngorongoro Crater is a World Heritage site with fascinating unique flora and fauna. The Serengeti always seems to have a mystical, reverent quality to it. In contrast Ngorongoro seems like one big animal playground -- even the name sounds comical!  

 

The Ngorongoro Wildlife Lodge is a comfortable luxurious lodge perched on the rim of the crater wall. The deck has an incredible view of the crater floor, and sunset on the deck with a gin & tonic, watching a herd of elephants grazing 2,000 feet below is an excellent way to end an African day!

 

Nov 22: Sunrise peeks over the crater wall at about 6 am so if you are an early riser, grab your coffee and a warm sweater and come outside on the deck for the dawning of a new day. After breakfast, we pack up and make our way down into the Crater.

 

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Ngorongoro Crater, is a World Heritage site with what is estimated to have the highest concentration of predators in the world, and we will descend to the floor of the 100-square-km caldera for morning game drives. There are many lion prides here and it is not unusual to see a couple of lion mating. Ngorongoro Crater also hosts a small population of extremely rare black rhino. These creatures were hunted mercilessly throughout the ’80s for their horns, but now conservation efforts and production of Viagra have tentatively begun to turn the tide. We don’t always get to see rhino here, but when we do it is an inspiring sight.

 

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Because of the increasing popularity of Ngorongoro Crater, game drives will be restricted to half days, so we will be out by noon. It turns out that really is enough time to see an amazing amount of wildlife. Besides, the afternoon gets a little sleepy for the animals, and we are off to the plains of the Serengeti to see even more.

 

If we have time, we will take a small detour and stop at Olduvai Gorge to visit the archeological site there. This is yet another fascinating place and we could easily spend a couple of days in the rugged countryside around the site. But we are off to the grand vistas of the Serengeti.

 

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The Serengeti is about the size of a New England state, and in contrast to Ngorongoro, has no permanent human habitation other than some small park facilities. At any given time there are perhaps less than a couple hundred humans in the whole place. On the short grass plains, land birds such as ostrich, cory bustard and secretary birds are very common. There are also several species of vulture, which can amazingly appear in large numbers out of a clear empty blue sky within minutes of a kill. Cheetah, lion, leopard, hyena and other major predators rule the plains here.

 

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Our camp will be at a private special campsite at an edge habitat between the grasslands and savannah forests. We will camp here for three nights. There are lots of animals here and we humanoids will be vastly outnumbered. Depending on the weather we may see the vast herds of wildebeest on the plains or we will look for them farther north.  

 

Our transit across the plains to our camp will take all day, so we will arrive at camp at sunset. Our trusty camp crew will have a classic tented safari camp ready for us including individual tents with sheeted beds, a shower, toilet, bar, and dining tent. We’ll unpack, open the bar, and have an elegant dinner overlooking the setting sun over the Serengeti Plains. Look out around the camp perimeter with your flashlight to see the glowing eyes looking back at you!

  

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Nov 23:  Awake to a special Thanksgiving Day in the middle of the Serengeti.  Plan on early morning game drives at dawn, and return to the camp for breakfast.  After breakfast we can journey along the Grumeti River where the giant crocodiles munch unlucky wildebeest. The crocodiles will be there, rain or shine, along with large herds of hippo, whom they don’t dare mess with. There is a secret spot we have found here, a rope bridge suspended above the river from which to watch the giant crocs swim by.  After a full day in the bush we will return to the camp for a Thanksgiving celebration.

 

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Nov 24:  Another full day exploring the Serengeti. There are so many places to explore, and even the ones we were at the day before will be different depending on the movement of the animals. Much has been written about the Serengeti and the wonder of it all, and by writers much better than myself, so I’ll just let your visit here speak for itself. There will likely be herds of wildebeest to the north that are a sight to behold. Reminiscent of the buffalo in the prairie, the wildebeest can cover the land from horizon to horizon. There are hippo pools filled with almost a hundred hippos, and thousands of zebra roam the Serengeti. And we are there to watch them.

 

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Nov 25:  Another travel day, but not in the Land Rovers. After breakfast we can go on short game drives or relax at the camp before packing up and heading to the nearby grass airstrip for the short flight back to Arusha. The view from the plane as we fly over the Serengeti is phenomenal.  The first time I made this flight I looked down at the vast open plains, and the smoldering volcanic cones in the distance, and imagined that I was in the middle of nowhere.  Then I realized that, in fact, I was in the middle of everything.  This is where life began for us humans, ground zero for the explosion of human civilization, and my trip here was really a homecoming to the cradle of our birth.   Seeing it from the air gives one a grand perspective, and I couldn’t help thinking – there’s no place like “home”.

 

 

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Those that are ending their safari here will arrive back in Arusha around noon with the rest of the day to explore the town, shop and prepare for their return flight. Onward flights are from Kilimanjaro Airport via Nairobi or straight from Kilimanjaro Airport on KLM. 

 

For those heading on to Zanzibar, the flight will leave from Arusha about an hour and a half later. For those who wish to stay in Tanzania longer, we can easily make arrangements for you.  Otherwise, we hope to see you again next time!

 

 Zanzibar!

 

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In the minds of most people, Zanzibar is more a mythical land than a real place. The 800,000 people living on this archipelago, the original Spice Islands, are part of an ancient culture unique to coastal East Africa. Indeed, the Swahili coast, and especially Zanzibar, is an incredible melting pot of the dozens of seafaring peoples who have plied the waters of the Indian Ocean—the Persians, Portuguese, Indians, Omanis, and British, just to mention the arrivals in the last 1,000 years.

 

Although Zanzibar is world famous for its white sand beaches, azure blue waters and coral reefs, many travelers here feel that beach life is but a small part of the visit. Experiencing the multi-ethnic cultural diversity, the grace and kindness of the local people, and the natural beauty of the island, are all part of the exotic charms of the Island. Visitors here often find their real element shopping and bargaining in the bazaar atmosphere of Stone Town, finding exotic treasure they never thought of, for next to nothing.

 

 

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Nov 25: We'll be met at the airport and transported to the eastern side of the island to the Sau Inn at the town of Jambiani. It sits on a beautiful lagoon with long white beaches and soft blue ocean. It's a very different place than the Serengeti, far less dusty and it is wonderful to jump into the warm Indian Ocean or the pool to wash off the dust. The rest of the day is free for swimming in the Indian Ocean, relaxing on the beach or enjoying local delicacies from the kitchen.

 

Our accommodations are located right on the beach, and there are lots of activities to enjoy, including swimming, playing on the beach, or taking a walk in town. Jambiani is a very friendly town and exptremely welcoming.

 

 

Nov 26: Wake to the sounds of the ocean waves brushing the sand outside your room and the smell of spice than permeates the air. Take a quick dip or a stroll down the beach, followed by breakfast. We'll orient you to the island and suggest a number of activities and excursions that may be of interest. The schedule that follows is a suggestion of some interesting activities. However, it should be considered an open schedule that can be altered in any way or completely ignored.

 

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The morning, depending on the tides will be spent relaxing and playing on the beach or going out on a sailboat to go snorkeling in the lagoon.  It's a great sail out to the edge of the reef, and then we can put on masks and snorkel (provided) and enjoy the wonders that await under the water's surface. We have to do this at high and will come in as the tide goes out.

 

The area gets very shallow at low tide and it is fun to walk out through the seaweed farms and see the women planting seaweed or harvesting it. It is a new endeavor and very interesting.

 

The pool is a welcome place to play and relax in the afternoon. There are women on the beach that will draw henna designs on you too, or borrow a bike and ride along the beach or in town.

 

 

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Nov 27: Awake early to drive about an hour to the southern end of the island to Kizimkazi, where we will have the chance to take a boat out to where the dolphins swim. Then you can jump into the water and swim with the dolphins. Though it is usually a very short time that you are actually near these wonderful creatures, it is an experience that is hard to forget.