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Wildlife Explorer Adventure Safari Daily Diary

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This is a description of an 11-day African Journey from Mount Kilimanjaro through the northern ecosystems of Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater, with an optional 5-day trip to the tropical beaches of Zanzibar Island. The safari is a combination lodge and camping safari designed as a group exploration of wildlife, culture and environment, combining a bit of adventure with a bit of luxury and a whole lot of fun.

 

Safari Style

 

This safari is designed for active people of any age who are interested in an in-depth group safari experience. The safari’s emphasis is on being close to the land, close to the people and close to the culture, as this is what a true African safari is all about. For adventurous people, there are no disadvantages to this approach, only advantages. 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.

 

This safari style is not the Love Boat, but neither is it Survivor

...it's more like Gilligan's Island

 

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This safari will involve both accommodations in first-class lodges as well as classic African camping in beautiful, wild and pristine locations. Camping will be in full-size classic African tents, with beds, hot showers and sit-down toilets.

 

Transportation will be primarily by well-equipped four wheel drive Land Rover or Land Cruiser safari vehicles, with on-board radio communication. The road conditions, although generally good and constantly improving, can sometimes be rough, dusty, muddy or even underwater. We provide enough vehicles so that no more than four persons have to fit in a vehicle. This ensures everyone has a window seat and enough room to be comfortable.

 

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We will often spend a good deal of time together in our safari vehicles, especially when changing locations. While in a particular location however, we are generally free to relax on our own, and in fact, all activities described in this itinerary should be considered optional. Anyone who wants to take a break from the group to kick back and read a book under a tree while the camp crew makes some popcorn is welcome.

 

The nature of this safari will require us to be together as a group for an extended period, and participants should enjoy being part of, and contributing to, a group experience. If you are a “people person” and have an easy going and adventurous spirit, we can almost guarantee the trip of a lifetime - if not, you should consider such options as a private safari.

 

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When we do have to make a certain fixed schedule, we rely on the group to help things go smoothly. We can expect, however, that in spite of the best teamwork and planning, there will inevitably be times when things don't go according to schedule. For example, a safari vehicle may get a flat, or road or weather conditions may force a delay in schedule. In these situations it is even more important to keep a relaxed, positive attitude - after all, this is Africa! 

 

As you may have gathered this will not be a standard tour bus safari. We will show you what we truly believe are the most incredible places we know with the time, budget and logistics we have available. What we make of it then, depends on each of us. Therefore, each member of the group should consider themselves an active participant in this adventure. A positive attitude and the ability to adapt are the keys to a great experience on this safari.

 

“Now, being in Africa, I was hungry for more of it, the changes of the seasons...the discomforts that you paid to make it real, the names of the trees, of the small animals, and all the birds, to know the language and have time to be in it and move slowly.”

Ernest Hemmingway

  

Costs and Group Size

The 12-day safari is $2,885 per person with a $300 single supplement The cost is based on a group size of 8-15 and does not include international airfare. The cut-off is 15, and will need a minimum group size of 8 for the trip to go. Reservations are made with a $500 deposit.

 

Often people are interested in remaining in-country a few extra days to explore on their own after the safari, and/or to stop off in Europe on the way back. This is easily arranged, and changes can be made in either tou outbound or return flights to allow extra time in Europe of Africa. For those wishing to stay on for a while in Tanzania, we can also arrange hotels, lodges, additional excursions or even homestays with African families.

 

Since most people like to book their trips in combination with other travel, the international airfare is booked separately. The current round-trip fare from San francisco to Kilimanjaro International Airport in Tanzania is about $1,500.  We can, and will, help you with those arrangements.

 

Safari Schedule and Description

Day 1: We will meet your morning flight into Kilimanjaro International Airport, or if you arrived the day before, we will pick you up at the lodge we took you to. Then we are off to Ndarakwai, a private 11,000 acre reserve on the western slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro. This is an amazing place off the beaten path of most tourists. Here you will have the chance to see a part of Tanzania that most people don't get to.

 

The camp is a permanent camp with luxurious tents under thatch and en suite bathrooms, complete with hot showers. Okay, somebody has to bring the hot water to the tent (not you), but the showers are hot and wonderful after a day walking through the wilds. Img62.jpgIn Ndarakwai reserve we will camp by the banks of a stream and have our pre-dinner drinks around a safari campfire. This will be a good time for comparing notes of the day and perhaps get a story or two from the guides. Campfire stories are a tradition in Africa dating back to the discovery of fire, and we won’t break this time-honored tradition. Everyone is welcome and encouraged to share their stories, songs, poems and prayers in the circle of the campfire.

 

There is no real need for everyone to stick together here in the reserve, once we have our bearings. Just explore and have fun. You can go out for game drives, walking or on mountain bike. We can go visit one of the local Maasai bomas (villages). The late afternoon is a great time to visit when they are bringing in the cattle for the night.  Or just stay around camp. A couple of years ago, the first person of our group to see an elephant did so while having his morning tea near the dining tent, as the elephant just walked through the camp. Everyone else was out for a game drive.  Our camp, with dining tent, showers, tents and kitchen, will be set beside a stream under some spreading trees. Tell the camp crew if you need a picnic lunch or expect to be back for lunch. 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.

 

Sleep in tents under the African skies and listen to the sounds of the night. A guard will always stand watch at night on every bush camp.

 

 

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Day 2: Wake up in a beautiful place you have never seen before, tucked on the lower west slope of Kilimanjaro. We will spend two more days here. 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. After breakfast there will be plenty of time for more game drives, or a walking safari through the reserve. 

 

There is also a “tree house” overlooking a primary watering hole that can be visited any time during the day. Last summer we counted 68 elephants that came by the watering hole over a period of an hour and a half. It's a great place to spend a relaxing afternoon with a book, and it might just get real exciting.

 

 

 

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There is also a 7-year-old baby orphaned elephant, named “Nkarsis” (“Princess” in Maasai), here at the reserve that was found separated from its mother. Peter Jones, the reserve owner, took her in and has nursed her back to health with special milk from Nairobi and round-the-clock care. Like all youngsters, she is playful and loves attention. She now is off with a herd, but she comes by every now and then and grazes nearby the camp and might come wandering by to give us all a good sniffing! She has grown quite a bit since this picture was taken.

 

Another dinner around the campfire. It is possible that local guests will arrive from nearby villages 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.

 

Day 3:  Today will be a repeat of the previous day since there is so much to see and everyday is different, or you can choose to take an optional day trip up the slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro. This will be an all-day deal, but the group can split. 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 by vehicle -- 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 go visit our neighbors at the Masaai boma (village) around sunset and watch them bring in their cattle and milk them into their gords.

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Day 4:  Awake for breakfast, pack up and say goodby to Ndarakwai as we depart for Tarangire National Park with a stop in Arusha for lunch and a visit to the Cultural Heritage Center for those interested in looking at or purchasing African art. We will arrive at Tarangire Park for a late afternoon game drive on our way to the Tarangire Safari Lodge where we'll spend the night overlooking the Tarangire River.

 

For those that don't mind an early start, there is an optional trip to Arusha National Park (ANP). It creates for a rather long day, but there is a lot to see in ANP and we will be on foot for most of it. We would arrive at ANP after about a two hour drive through a dry landscape that gives way to lush fields and forest. In the park, a ranger will lead us up the slopes of Mt. Meru through a mostly alpine environment which includes open glens, canopied forests, water falls and elephant grass. This place is reminiscent of Jurassic Park, with African big game taking the place of dinosaurs. You can either go slow and spend time observing a few locations in detail or go more quickly and cover more ground. We will have lunch on the trail and head back to the gate.  On past trips people have said this was one of the highlights of the trip -- walking through a meadow with giraffe, buffalo and other wildlife all around us.  On the trail we will likely also see elephant, colobus monkey, baboons, warthog and evon leopard if we are lucky!  

 

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Once back at the gate, if time allows, we will head to the other half of the park. Expect to see large flocks of flamingos grazing in the shallow lake. Small antelope called dik-dik and guinea fowl (kanga) are also common. We also might get to see Mt. Kilimanjaro peeking out of the clouds a short distance to the East. 

 

Around three o'clock, we will head to Tarangire National Park which is a good three hour drive from the park. While Arusha Park is a gem, many people prefer not to make the day quite so long and also prefer to spend more time in Tarangire Park. It is a hard call as there is just not enough time to see and do everything and some things are missed. The good news is you can wait to see how you're feeling and decide then. Often, people prefer to stay in Arusha for a couple of days before or after the safari and can go to Arusha National Park then.

Regardless of how people decide to spend the day, sitting on the deck overlooking the Tarangire River with a cold one in hand is a wonderful way to end the day.

 

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Day 5: Waken to the sound of hundreds of birds singing the sun up. We can go on a game drive before breakfast or take a liesurely morning listening to the birds while sipping coffee or tea.

 

Tarangire is absolutely our favorite park in East Africa. There is just something about it. It’s laid back, wild and it always makes you feel like we are 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!

 
 

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For lunch, we can have our choice of a picnic lunch or lunch back at the lodge.  After lunch, it's good to relax a bit around the pool or sitting in the lobby looking out over the river. 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.) We have the rest of the day to explore this amazing park that 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 will have to be at our next destination by sunset, so as the sun begins to descend, we will trundle out of the park in our trusty, dusty Land Rovers, and head across the Great Rift Valley to Kirurumu Tented Lodge for dinner and the night.

 

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Kirurumu Lodge is real rustic elegance. Accommodations are in spacious classic safari tents with all the modern conveniences, and decks looking out over Lake Manyara and the Rift Valley. This location is ideal for local cultural excursions and walking tours in the surrounding communities. The lodge is a 20-minute walk from the town center of Mto wa Mbu.  There is a bustling market there, and lots of things to see, do and buy. 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!

 

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Day 6: Mto wa Mbu is nestled on the north shore of Lake Manyara. We will spend the morning walking through parts of it with a guide who will show us how the diverse people of this area live, how they farm banana, the medicines they use, the schools the children go to, and even have a chance to try some of the banana beer. The Masai Market is in town and it's a great opportunity to by some of those gifts everybody expects you to come home with.

 

We can have lunch in town or back up at the lodge. In the late afternoon, we we head off to our next safari adventures in Ngorongoro Crater, a World Heritage site with what is estimated to have the highest concentration of predators in the world. To get to the crater, we will travel west up the Rift Valley escarpment wall and climb to an altitude of 6,000 -7,000 feet to the Ngorongoro Highlands. This is a fascinating area with unique flora and avian 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 Crater rim is only an hour or two away from Kirurumu Lodge and we will stay at the Ngorongoro Wildlife Lodge with a deck overlooking the crater 2,000 feet below. Now these people know decks and it is a wonderful place to watch the sunset from.

 

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Day 7:  Early morning breakfast and we will descend to the floor of the 100-square-km caldera for all day game drives, birding and a picnic lunch by a small lake in the crater. Although there are lots of bird species, including flamingos, vultures, marabouk stork, secretary birds, etc, the kites that hang out at the lake where we stop for a picnic can steal the show with their acrobatic skills. These birds are a joy to watch even for a neophyte birder. They are also brazen thieves and we will do well to watch our lunches closely, as they are so agile and quick that they can swoop down and pick a morsel of food out of your hand before it reaches your mouth.

 

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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 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.

 

We will spend the night again at the Wildlife Lodge. Sunset on the deck with a gin & tonic, watching a herd of elephants grazing 2,000 feet below is a most excellent way to end an African day!

 

  

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Day 8:  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 continue west, down into the Ndutu short grass plains of the southern Serengeti. On the way we will stop at Olduvai Gorge to visit the archeological site there. This is another fascinating place and we could easily spend a couple of days in the rugged countryside around the site. Depending on the group’s interests we can spend some time there or proceed more directly across the plains through the Serengeti.

 

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 in an edge habitat between the grasslands and savannah forests. We will camp here in our “island in the plains” 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 gone ahead of us to set up a comfortable camp. We should arrive to a nice camp, shower, cold drinks, and a hot dinner.

 

Dinner will be elegant dining under the eternal stars of the Serengeti. Look out around the camp perimeter with your flashlight to see the glowing eyes looking back at you!

 

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Day 9:  Awake to another most excellent situation in the middle of the Serengeti. Plan on early morning game drives atdawn, with return to camp for breakfast. After breakfast on this first morning we will prepare for a 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.

 

Day 10:  Another full day exploring the Serengeti. Depending upon how we structure our time we might be able to transit through the park to the east shore of Lake Victoria. (Dr. Livingston I presume?) Otherwise, there is plenty to explore or, as always, to simply sit and relax under the shade of an Acacia tree and enjoy the sights and smells of the savannah. 

 

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Day 11: Another travel day, but this time not in the Land Rovers. After breakfast we can go on short game drives or relax in camp before packing up and driving 10 minutes to the grass airstrip for our short flight to Arusha or Zanzibar. The view from the plane as we fly over the Serengeti is phenomenal and so much quicker than driving back. Those that are leaving us will spend the afternoon in Arusha beforing flying on home. The rest of us lucky enough to be able to stay, we continue on to Zanzibar for our five days on the islands!

 

 

 

For More Info Call: 800/582-1822

info@bluemoonsafris.com or trips@bluemoonsafaris.com

 

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