A Travellerspoint blog


Sunday, May 13

We boarded the van at 7:30am en route to the Tanzania border. Before departing, Hayley who had grabbed a banana for the drive had quite the shock when a monkey jumped into the van and onto her lap trying to steal her banana. When she realized the monkey was after her snack, she promptly threw it at Nana. Luckily the monkey jumped out and Hayley was able to save her banana. Hayley: 1 Monkey: 0 
James successfully got us across the border to Tanzania where he introduced us to our new guide, Wolfgang. 
After we piled into our Land Cruiser, we drove to the Arusha Hotel where we had lunch before departing for an afternoon drive en route to Lake Manyara Serena Lodge. This park is known for its foliage, baboons and birds.
Very early on Wolfgang wowed us with his knowledge of birds, trees, flowers and animals.

Monday, May 14

We left for the Ngorongoro Crater (GORO GORO means the sound the cow bells make as the Masai move them down into the pasture). After arriving at the Ngorongoro Serena Lodge late in the morning, we enjoyed some R&R while playing cards and admiring the views of the magnificent landscape.

Tuesday, May 15

Happy 30th Birthday Tara-Lyn
At 6 am, we departed to descend into the crater through very dense fog.
In the crater, we saw hippos, cape buffalo, lions, hyenas, honey badgers, elephants, wildebeests, zebras, jackals, warthogs, flamingoes and rhinos.

We had a bush breakfast by the hippo pool and were awed by the hippos while being ambushed by various birds for our breakfast.
It is difficult to describe the crater coming to life as the dense fog lifted. This whole journey has been a trip of a lifetime and no words will ever do it justice.
After our 7 hour game drive, we headed back to the lodge for lunch and another afternoon of relaxation.

Wednesday, May 16

We left for Serengeti National Park (meaning endless plain) at 7, entering the park at 10 am. On the way, we spotted 2 cheetahs along the side of the road and we had the unexpected treat of witnessing the wildebeest and zebra migration of hundreds of thousands. Approximately 1.8 million wildebeests take part in this migration.

The game drive was spectacular with our sighting of 2 ever elusive leopards and a total of 22 lions. We spotted 5 lions sleeping in a tree and were relieved they did not fall out of the tree and into our land cruiser. 
We enjoyed lunch at a picnic site and interpretive center, where we sat with hyrax and mongoose. We were taken on a tour where we learnt more about the area and the annual migration.

We arrived at the Serengeti Serena Lodge in late afternoon and were greeted by wonderful staff and lots of Tse Tse flies! Because this lodge is located within the Park, they are not allowed to fence around the lodge and, therefore, you must be escorted to and from your rooms after dark.
We enjoyed some wine in our room before being escorted to dinner.
After dinner, the staff entertained us with their singing and dancing.

Thursday, May 17

We departed for our game drive shortly after 8 minus one as Hayley was ill and spent her day at the lodge where she was monitored by the doctor and staff. Wolfgang took us to an amazing hippo pool where we were entertained for quite some time. Our view of these hippos surpassed our views of the hippos on our boat cruise in Kenya.

We enjoyed another picnic lunch before continuing on our afternoon game drive.
We returned to the Lodge to find Hayley feeling well enough to join us around the pool for a cocktail before dinner. After dinner, the staff performed amazing acrobatics. They should really try out for Cirque de Soleil.

Friday, May 18

We enjoyed an early morning bush breakfast before departing for Tarangire National Park.

We had to depart the Serengeti by 10 AM as our stay was limited to 48 hours. Before leaving the Serengeti, we were fortunate to come upon 3 male lions feasting on a wildebeest. A mom arrived with her 6 cubs but the males were not about to share. This is typical for males to eat first and the females and cubs to wait their turn.

For anyone who watches The Amazing Race, we even located the Hillary Clinton Shop!!
We had lunch at the Lake Manyara Lodge where we were able to enjoy our meal with Wolfgang. This was the first time for us to be able to dine with him. There seems to be different rules for dining with the tour guides in Tanzania than there were in Kenya. 
On our game drive through the Tarangire National Park, Wolfgang pointed out the large Baobab trees which poachers use to hide from the elephants. Because this park is somewhat new and the elephants are not completely protected, the elephants are agressive and have been known to charge a vehicle.

We thought the Tse Tse flies were bad in the Serengeti, but they were nothing compared to Tarangire. They are attracted to blue and black which are popular colors worn by our group.

We arrived at the Tarangire Sopa Lodge around 6. The vast marble-floored reception area was a welcoming sight. Because this was our last night of our Safari, we chose to take advantage of their beautiful circular pool with a central island. We realized our pool keeper was staying overtime so we cut our swim short. We enjoyed a beautiful outdoor B-B-Q before retirng to our rooms.

Saturday, May 19

After enjoying a delicious breakfast, we made the drive back to Arusha where we were met by Emmanuel at Mount Meru Hotel. 4 of our group had a day room before catching an evening flight home. Shelley, Sandra and Jordyn were overnighting in Arusha and checked into the possibility of staying at Mount Meru but at $315 US, we opted to stay at Planet Lodge for $110 US. We enjoyed some Tuskers and burgers while having our laundry done. Our few items of clothing cost $60 US. It was a high price to pay but well worth it. Wolfgang very graciously offered to drive us to the airport at 4 am to catch our 6 am flight to Kigali, Rwanda.
NOTE: For anyone who is considering an African Safari, we highly recommend Vintage Tours. All 3 of our drivers (Raphael, James and Wolfgang) were very knowledgable and enthusiastic.

Posted by Mark's Pride 09:23 Comments (0)


Friday, May 11th,

6:30 AM start to our day proved to be very successful, as we had the unique opportunity to watch 2 Cheetahs lazing in the grass and then travelling a short distance to lie beside the road. From about 5 feet we took 100's of pictures while the Guinea Fowl serenaded us!
We returned for a buffet breakfast, before driving about 2 km outside the park to visit the nearest Masai Village. There, we were greeted by an elder dressed in the typical red shuka, carrying his stick. The young Masai warriors proudly performed their ritual dance of jumping to vie for the male with the most girlfriends. We met one young man who had 15 girlfriends, which was exhibited by the amount of jewelry he wore around his head and chest. The chief of the village is 98 years old and we were introduced to his first wife (of 11) who is 87 years old. She was very gracious.

Masai Facts:
-You can tell how many wives a person has by the amount of houses in the circular village.
-Each wife is responsible for building her own hut, tending to the livestock, retrieving water and firewood, milking cows, and raise the children.
-Each hut has its own opening which is guarded by a warrior at night (15-28 year old boys)
-The Masai is a nomadic tribe where they move every 3-4 years.
-Their diet consists of milk, blood, and red meat (from their domestic animals).
-Each man is able to have as many wives depending on how many cows he has (as he pays 15 cattle per wife).

We enjoyed some leisure time by the pool before going on our afternoon game drive at 4. We were able to experience some one-on-one time with a lioness who was lazing on a rock about 6-feet from our van. A little while later we spotted an entire pride of lions on the prowl for some dinner, but we never actually saw the kill. We then enjoyed a lovely dinner with Raphael getting to hear some of his experiences as a safari guide. Most spectacular moment for him was when he witnessed a python swallowing a gazelle whole.

Lala Salama

Saturday, May 12th,

Today is a very sad day, the day has come upon us where we have to depart from our fearless leader of the past week, Raphael. We went for a early breakfast at Sarova Mara Camp, where we witnessed a fearless monkey going after a women's banana, cliche? We thought so. We then headed to meet Raphael for a game drive on our way to the airstrip. Raphael, being the wonderful guide he is continued to search for the leopard en route to the airstrip, although we did not spot one, we thoroughly enjoyed our last game drive with him. Our 10:15 flight finally left at about 11:15. A full 16-passenger flight, Hayley and Shelley were literally close enough to touch the pilots, but restrained. We were greeted by our new driver James, who was wonderful as well, with a great sense of humor. We then drove through Nairobi to Amboseli, arriving in Amboseli where we saw our first hippo out of water. After the game drive we settled into Amboseli Serena Lodge, where we had a lovely dinner sans Jordyn due to illness, and then Mark, Nadine, Hayley, Shelley, and Sandra watched the documentary about Echo the Elephant, where Shelley and Sandra enjoyed an Ostrich kick.

Lala Salama

Sunday, May 13th,

After we all got into the van at an early 7:30am, we had the top of the van open due to our game drive on the way to the border. Hayley who had grabbed a banana for the drive had quite the shock when a monkey jumped into the van and onto her lap trying to steal her banana. When she realized the monkey was after her snack, she promptly threw it at Nana. Luckily the monkey jumped out and Hayley was able to save her banana. Hayley: 1 Monkey:0. James sucessfully got us across the border in Tanzania where he introduced us to our new guide Wolfgang. After we piled into our lovely landcruiser we headed to Arusha.
Bye for now! (Kwahale)

Posted by Mark's Pride 05:54 Comments (0)


Monday, May 7

We left Sweetwaters Tented Camp at 8:00 heading to Samburu National Reserve.
The Shaba Game Reserve is made famous by the late Joy Adamson and her lioness Elsa. It's often referred to as "Born Free Country".
We arrived around noon and were graciously greeted with washcloths and fresh squeezed juices.
We all enjoyed Tusker beers around the bar before lunch and then met the friendly staff of "Chicken George", Veronikah and John.
After some free time to nap, swim and enjoy the antics of the local Vervet monkeys, we headed off at 4 in search of the "special 5", consisting of the Grevy's Zebra, the Reticulated Giraffe, Somali Ostrich and Beisa Oryx and the Gerenuk. We spotted all except the ostrich. In addition to the excitement of seeing these unique creatures, we had the opportunity to display our unique Canadian brain and braun. After a failed attempt at making a U-turn, we became "stuck"!! It took 4 women and Mark 45 minutes and much creativity to push our Toyota van out of it's downhill position!
Needless to say, after returning to our lodge, Tuskers (local beer/elephant soup) were enjoyed by all, including RaPHael. The conversation included lots of questions about the Kenyan way of life as well as describing life in Canada!
After dinner, we all skyped with Papa and Krista, including David (the waiter) who was excited to meet our "grandfather" and commented that Nana looked very happy to talk with her husband!

Some of us headed off to bed, but left the 3 bloggers (Sandra, Shelley & Jordyn) typing away in the bar, where the wi-fi was the strongest, apparently! Sandra realized the staff felt committed to stay in the bar while they were there, but eventually convinced them they did not need to.

Lala Salama "sleep well"

Tuesday, May 8

We have now become a party of 6! Sadly, Sandra felt ill and spent the entire day in bed. She was well tended to by the restaurant staff and resident Doctor.
Close call of the day; Hayley encountered a very assertive monkey who was interested in her piece of bread, which she quickly tossed in order to make it to her room.

The rest of us left at 8 for Buffalo Springs, where we saw lots of Oryx, a crocodile, stork, dik-diks ( smallest antelope who traditionally travel in pairs), Gazelles, even a very new baby being cleaned by it's mother and learning to walk.
Akward, but natural moment came, when we witnessed the "physical act of love" between 2 zebras! Poor thing, she never saw it coming, but we did!!!!
Funny quote of the morning; Hayley - "oh my, that's like a 3rd leg". To which Jordyn replied; "but they already have 4!"
After careful navigation of the soft marshland, Raphael managed to take us right amongst a pack of pacoderms (elephants), probably in excess of 20. Of course as always, the babies stole the show! Raphael explained some facts about the elephant; the females live to 60-70 years and continues to be the matriarchs of the herd, while the bulls tend to travel solo. There are no natural predators, only humans who kill these magnificent creatures for their ivory tusks! Also, when one of the herd dies, they grieve like humans, actually producing tears!

We headed along the river to park and be entertained by about 10 elephants who frolicked and rolled in the river. Again, Baby was the star of the show. We even captured some of their trumpeting on the video camera.

After lunch, we all had a quick nap before meeting Raphael (Kinuthia) at 3:30 for our afternoon game drive in Samburu National park where "Nature defies itself". Raphael explained how about 2 years ago a lioness adopted a baby Oryx. On the game drive, even though it was raining, we were still able to spot reticulated giraffes and elephants.

After the game drive we stopped at a local Samburu village, where we were greeted by an elder. The elder explained to us the way in which the village was laid out, each family has their own entrance into the circular formation which is the village. The young Samburu warriors performed a traditional wedding ceremony song and dance, which included very high jumping (to impress the young women). Then everyone was provided with two tribal necklaces and Jordyn, Hayley and Nadine were invited to participate in a dance (which proved they have no rhythm). Eventually all of the women were participating in the dance. We were escorted to see all of the little children sitting under the tree (they sit under the tree so that way the mothers always know where they are). Then some of the men worked very hard to produce fire, where they used a soft wood and wood of the acacia tree on top of donkey dung, this fire is shared by all. We were then led to a house by John, which housed three goats and six people. The walls of the home are built with cow dung (like a concrete), the roofs are formed by acacia branches, these houses are built completely by the women. The Samburu people are nomadic because they need to follow the availability of water. Each home has its own pen for their goats, goats and cows are very valuable and utilized for their milk, blood, meat, hides, and even bones are used to create both jewelry and spears. Then Shelley, Hayley, and Jordyn, did not mind overpaying for their beautiful bracelets in order to support the women who make jewelry to sell and trade. These women make this jewelry in their spare time (Which can't be much as they care for the children, fetch water, and provide physical labor), and one usually takes around 2 days to make.
Lasting impressions of the Samburu people:

Hayley: Visiting the village made me feel very lucky to be a girl in Canada. In Africa, where polygamy is legal, the samburu warriors go into the wilderness to gain both experience and wisdom, before coming back to get married between the age of 28-30. The women they marry are usually aged between 16-30. To see these women both strong and beautiful, it was sad to see that they have very little control over their life. After learning that between two children only one can go to school, while the other takes care of the animals. So many kids in Canada view education as a chore instead of a privilege, leaving this village has made me feel very grateful for all that I have and the opportunites that I am offered.

Nadine: I understand how much work it is to keep house in Canada, but to have to rely on the water source and fire to cook, etc, has made me appreciate our conveniences even more!

Jordyn: Due to my lack of education, I would be out tending to the goat and cows. After being married off to a 30 year old man at the age of 16, I would then run away from the village. It is a very unique way of life and makes me appreciate that I am still unmarried at the age of 20!

Nana: I appreciate being alive, because at my age, if I were at a Samburu village I would have been gone 10-20 years ago.

Shelley: I appreciate the sweet little faces of the little babies and kids and makes me miss the grandchildren!

Mark: I wish I owned more cows, because the more cows, the more wives I would have. I probably would not get many goats for my daughters.

Wednesday, May 9th

We were almost an hour late making our departure 8 o'clock for a 7 hour drive on our way to Lake Nakuru National Park. It was a very long windy, bumpy road. We stopped at a curio shop where Sandra bought a painting, bartering with Nana's help. Hayley was the ill one today, finally taking a gravel to knock her out for most of the ride. Crossing the Equator, we were able to be educated by a local who was excited to show us how water spins different ways in the north and south hemispheres. He also sold us lovely certificates as he explained "and a tip for me" was expected. After more driving.....We stopped at Nyahururu Falls .,(also known as Thompson Falls), but unfortunately, due to the heavy rain we were unable to see it. We arrived at the Sarova Lion HIll lodge, where we ate a late lunch at 4 pm, and quickly left for an afternoon game drive, in search of the Rhinoceros. Despite the rain, we were able to spot the Black Rhino and lots of Cape Buffalo.
We returned for dinner and called it an early night.
Lala Salama

Thursday, May 10th

Up and ready for our 8 am departure, much to Raphael's shock.
We drove straight to Lake Navaisha at an elevation of 6270 meters! It is the highest of all the lakes and has many schools of Hippos, which we were able to see from a distance in the marsh, usually 6-7 of them.
Hippos weigh between 1.5 to 2 tons, they can run 45 kph. They mate and give birth in the water where they spend most of the day to avoid sun damage and bugs, then move onto land where they graze and spend the night. Gestation period - 8 months. Babies ride on the backs till about 3 months and when the young males start to mature, they get chased out of the schools.
We saw multiple species of birds, king fishers, cormarons and pelicans.

Luckily we made it back to shore in one piece and were escorted back to the lodge, walking amongst Hippo resting places and Waterbucks. Raphael was surprised to see us, after Nana told him she was the only survivor!!
As we were leaving, Raphael spotted a Colobus Monkey, which are quite rare, but very beautiful with their long fur in black and white.
We stopped for lunch and of course, Jordyn, Shelley & Sandra purchased some more much needed bracelets:P

We travelled along an unbelievably crater-filled road into the Maasai Mara, where we spotted some more zebras and giraffes while heading to the Sarova Mara Lodge.
It is a tented camp, nestled amongst the baboon-filled trees, bordering on the marsh where the salt licks draw the animals throughout the night.

Posted by Mark's Pride 04:54 Comments (0)

Safari Initiation Kenyan Style

Sunday, May 6

Awake at 6 to enjoy breakfast at 7 in the world renowned Thorn Tree cafe. Known for the message system for decades. People would leave notes as a way of communicating with others.We departed with Raphael in our van at 8 and drove through the streets of Nairobi to explore the Karen Blixen museum. She was known for her respect and empowerment of the Kenyan people through her employment and dedication to their education, which continues today on her 600 hectares of land.
We arrived at the Giraffe center, where we were all able to feed Lynn, the eldest of the group of 5, at the age of 16. She was born in captivity and is the primary breeder of the babies which are returned to the wild at about 18 months. In addition to hand feeding Lynn, we all managed to receive a big kiss

Giraffe Facts:

Gestation 15-18 months, depending on weather conditions. If it's too cold, they can hold the baby in until the temperatures increase. They are nursed until about 6 months, when they can begin to feed on the soft vegetation. They have only bottom teeth at the front, with a 45cm tongue. They have full top and bottom teeth at the back of their jaw, where they chew their cud. Their saliva contains antiseptic, which helps protect them from the thorny vegetation
One kick from a giraffe can kill a lion. The main predator is a group of wild cats or hyenas.
They are most vulnerable when they are drinking from the watering hole, because they are on their knees, making their necks vulnerable.
There are 3 types of giraffes; Rothschild, Masai (which are the largest, with star like patterns) and Reticulated.
Rothschilds are at the reserve, they have white socks. Females have 3 horns, males have 5. Males grow to 18 feet, females 16. Calves are about 6 feet at birth, and after one hour, can run.
Hearts weigh about 8 kg, and need to pump blood all the way up to their brain.
They eat 30-60 kg perday, but the ones at the reserve, especially enjoy being fed the pellets of wheat and molasses.

We drove and drove and drove until we got to have one pee stop at a lovely Americana Curio Shop, where Louise purchased some tea light holders.
We drove another 1 1/2 hours along a very bumpy, windy road, with periods of rain and sun, but no snow!
Eventually we arrived at the Sweetwaters Tented Camp, inside the Ol Pejeta Conservancy, where we saw Giraffes and Camels who appeared to be enjoying a local Volleyball game. We were greeted with a warm wash cloth and freshly squeezed juice. Then escorted into the nicely decorated dining room for a lovely buffet lunch, where we watched Impalas at the watering hole and were quickly introduced to George the resident Marabou Stork.
We quickly checked into our exotic homes (tents) and quickly left for our first game drive.

We immediately saw more Impalas, but rounded the corner to see our very first African Bush Elephant!!!!!
On our way to the Jane Goodall Chimpanzee Orphan Santuary, we saw Zebras, Warthogs and a mother Elephant with her 3 calves. Shelley is insistent that she had twins, but Raphael says it is more likely she adopted the extra calf.

At the Chimp reserve, we were entertained by Sarcate, Poco and Max and learned much about our close Primate cousins!

On our 2 hour drive home, we managed to locate 7 lions, just lazing by the side of the road. It appeared to be a family; Mufasa, Sarabi, Simba, Nala and one extra, along with 2 other lionesses. We had the luxury of watching them play and torment their parents just like our kids!
We also managed to see Cape Buffalo, Fish Eagles, Giraffes, Jackal and Eland and tons of Guinea Fowl. All in all, an amazing introduction to Africa!

On our way back to our tents, we witnessed 3 Elephants just hanging out by the watering hole, along with multiple Zebras.

After dinner, we returned to find our beds turned down with hot water bottles warming them.

Posted by Mark's Pride 04:54 Archived in Kenya Comments (0)



overcast 12 °C

May 2nd

The seven of us arrived in Amsterdam from various points of departure. After a free trip on the tram, we trudged to the Hotel Kap, where we were faced with the "world famous steep stairs." After that, Shelley is still not sure how she is going to get her wheeled luggage back down the stairs.
This building has been working as a hotel since 1928. We wandered around the city centre after having a traditional Dutch lunch of waffles and pancakes. We were running on little to no sleep and started to hit the wall late afternoon in a cafe (Hayley says it was close to a canal...there are 90km's of canals!) There are an estimated 600,000 bikes and Louise has almost been hit by 599,999. Despite our jetlag, we kept going until returning back to our hotel at 5:30 and retiring to a game of Cheat while eating cheese, meat, and melba toast as well as a few Heineken.

May 3rd

We started with our hotel breakfast which was a traditional Dutch breakfast, consisting of bread, cheese, meat, muffins, muesli, and yogurt. As we congregated at the breakfast table, a decision was made that we all must take turns sharing a room with Louise. She is a window-rattler! Hayley had her first hardboiled egg! Without the shell!!! We then walked over to the Heineken Brewery and caught the Hop-On-Hop-Off bus. We drove past the Van Gogh museum, Vondelpark, and Anne Frank house. We then got off the bus at the Sexmuseum. The seven of us proceeded to take a tour of the museum which was both awkward and entertaining. We then got back on the bus to the red light district, where we promptly got lost. We eventually found our way and toured the red light district and then went for lunch in a tiny castle in Nieuwmarket. We then walked back to the Hotel Amrath to catch the bus again so that we could make it to Anne Frank's house. Luckily, Nadine booked us tickets ahead of time, which saved us a very long wait in the queue. It cost us 9.50 euros. The tour, which normally takes 45 minutes, took some of our group a whopping 1 hour and 30 minutes! Nadine was trying to learn Dutch apparently! The museum, although very busy, was incredibly silent. After that, we went in search of the "Nine Streets" which were unfortunately closed by the time we arrived, but our goal is to see them tomorrow. We stopped at a little restaurant in a tiny alley called Tomaz, where Hayley and Jordyn had chocolate pie for dinner, and everyone but Hayley treated themselves to a Jupiler. We booked a canal cruise at 10pm, which we missed by 10 minutes, even though Sandra, Hayley and Jordyn ran to try and catch it, but ran past it!! On the bright side, we got to see the red light district at night, where many a door was opened for Mark.


May 4th

We awoke at 7 to be first in line for breakfast at 8. We caught the hop-on, hop-off bus at 10:10, to Central Station to board the 11:30 canal cruise. We travelled through the many waterways, including the harbor of the North Sea. We proceeded through the fresh water and locks, touring through the old neighborhoods. We admired the age of most of the buildings, tall, narrow, with huge wooden shutters. The lifting beams provide the route to move things in and out of the windows, as the steep staircases make it impossibe to move house.
The buildings lean forward towards the streets, to allow for the lifting of objects without hitting the structure.
After the canal tour, we walked down through Jordaan district in search of the nine streets for the renowned shopping. It was rainy, windy and quite cold, so we tucked into a lovely restaurant for a nice warm lunch and beer.




Mark, Jordyn, Sandra & Shelley headed off to experience the Heineken brewery where they learned the brewing process and got to enjoy a pint or two or three......
Nana, Hayley and Nadine meandered through the shopping district and managed to find their way back to the hotel Kap. After loading our packs onto our weary backs, we trudged and trudged only to find that the local trams were not running, due to Memorial Day. After about 30 minutes of futile attempts and many misdirections, it was decided to hire a cab to take us all to the airport for 50 euros.
All this, only to discover that our flight to Nairobi had been cancelled since late morning.
KLM managed to accommodate us in the hotel VD Valk.
After dinner, we settled to bed for a very short night, in preparation for the early bus to the airport in hopes of an upgrade!!!!

May 5

7:20 AM, the bus departs to Schipol airport with 3 of the 7 people for the 11:15 departure. Aside from Jordyn, the rest of the Goodgroves were left primping in their hotel rooms and had to catch the 8:00 bus!!
Despite our best efforts, no upgrade was given, but a fabulous flight was enjoyed by all, thanks to the amazing KLM crew.

8:20 PM, We arrive in Africa!!!!!!
After clearing customs, which was a breeze, picking up luggage and finding our Vintage Africa rep; Peter, we piled into our van to be driven by Rafael to the Sarova Stanley Hotel. Impressive hotel, with stunning wood work, curtains, furniture, etc.

Update and pictures to follow........the internet is intermittent at best.

Posted by Mark's Pride 12:48 Archived in Netherlands Comments (0)

(Entries 1 - 5 of 5) Page [1]