We used Thomson Safaris to book our safari and they took good care of us. Gabriela in Boston answered all my million questions before we booked and then handed us off to Nicole and Annifreed. Both of them managed to make sure we got all of our published materials about two months earlier than normal since we left the country in August.
We had 10 people on the 12-day safari and used to safari vehicles (Land Rovers Defenders) every day – 4 people in one and 6 in the other. Willy was our head guide with Harrison and Mohdy as the two drivers and assistant guides and spotters.
We spent about 8 hours a day in this vehicle. There was a lovely blue stool for some of us to use to reach up the steps!
The groups consisted of:
- Mark and Susan
- Annie and Jo from Nashville. They had some amazing/amusing travel tales to tell and used their nursing expertise when needed by the group.
- Jerry, a retired high school English teacher, and his grandson, Russ, who works on merchant ships.
- Jean and John from Florida
- Aileen and Lee from outside of Chicago.
We all landed at Kilimanjaro (JRO) airport either on KLM (everyone else) or Turkish Air (us because we used United Star Alliance miles for free Business Class tickets). Our flight landed at 1:30 AM and the driver for the KIA Lodge was waiting after we exited Immigration and got our luggage. Staying there, saved us a 45 minute drive at 2 AM.
JRO Airport at 1 AM. We walked across the runway to the terminal.
If the clouds weren’t in the way, we could see Kili from here. The locals told us Kili is very shy and doesn’t make an appearance often.
Our first view of Tanzania from KIA lodge. The scenery looked like all the pictures we’ve seen of Africa.
After a short night, the next morning we transferred to Rivertrees Country Inn, as planned. We came in a few days early due to free ticket availability and Susan’s fear of cancelled flights.
Three types of monkeys live at River Trees Inn. These two were grooming each other.
Our room had mosquito netting around the bed. We were lucky that we saw very few mosquitoes!
This was our cottage at River Trees Inn.
Here’s our Safari tale #1. Two people in our group had luggage that was missing in action! Jerry got his in a few days. Aileen’s suitcase had a lovely trip – Chicago to Amsterdam to Tel Aviv to Dusseldorf with some of this on an Air France flight somewhere along the line. How do we know this? Air France put an apology card in her suitcase and a Dusseldorf luggage tag was attached when the suitcase FINALLY showed up 6 days late.
Everyone pitched in and loaned/gave combs, malaria meds, allergy meds, shampoo, cameras, chargers, etc. Mark used his Google Pixel for pictures so he loaned his Canon camera to Aileen. He’d left the camera battery charger in Germany, though. Amazingly, Annie had a charger for the Canon battery!
The safari began with a drive from Rivertrees Country Inn to Arusha airport (about 1 hour) where we boarded a small plane and flew to Waiusa airstrip in the eastern Serengeti.
Where did we stay?
Most of the time we stayed in permanent tented camps, complete with real beds, camp toilets and camp showers. We could have hot showers so no one complained. All lighting was solar. However, there were no outlets in the rooms. We charged items either in the main tent or in one of the vehicles while we drove around. We just had to pray for sunny days, so the bar tent had solar power for charging! It was only a problem one day.
One of the tents we had. We were always either tent 4 or tent 5 so those are the only 2 numbers I know in Swahili!
Yes, it’s a real bed! The pillows were hard. At the camps that were “cold”, hot water bottles were provided at night. Mark and Susan only used the bags one night in Ngorongoro Crater Rim camp. The rest of the nights it was plenty warm.
Where did we eat?
Meals in the camps were served in a dining tent next to the bar tent! Safari tale #2 – One morning, Russ was in the dining tent for breakfast and saw a snake on the ground. He lifted the edge of the tent, kicked the snake out, and told the camp manager who called the ranger (Every camp has one assigned to it.). The ranger used a long stick to move the snake to a better location and THEN told Russ it was a highly poisonous black mambo that he’d kicked. Russ promised never to kick another snake!
All meals were done as a group with formal service. The food was good especially the variety of soups we had.
Dining and bar tent where the charging of phones, batteries, Kindles, toothbrushes was done!
Safari Tale #3 Showers – Camp showers consist of a cloth bag filled by two guys with a combination of hot and cold water at the time you specified. They worked pretty well and when one person in the tent was finished, the guys would come back, and we’d hear a voice say “Ready for another shower?” They’d fill up the cloth bucket again and we’d hear the same voice say, “Shower is ready”. These were the talking showers!
You can see the water bag outside the mesh window. It worked pretty well!
Shower set up. The solar power was for the little lights in each tent. The green rope controls the pulley system for lifting the bag.
We each had our own sink but you had to fill it with water from a pitcher. In the morning, we all got a big pitcher of hot water to mix with the cold water from the other pitchers. This was only for washing. Teeth brushing and drinking water came from bottled water.
We spent three nights at Gibb’s Farm and it was heaven – soft beds, proper showers and toilets, great food, and a cat who came to visit. We had both an indoor and outdoor shower.
This was a shared living room. We had Happy Hour here, inviting some of the other safari people. The lodge asked every night if we wanted the fireplace lit.
The bathroom complete with African carving artwork.
A lively game of croquet was played except no one really remembered the rules!
Every bed had mosquito netting. Again, we saw few, if any, mosquitoes here.
We had the left side of this cottage. Annie and Jo had the right side. Our cottage was the furthest away from the main building and involved a nice little walk at about 7000 feet.
This was our outdoor shower.
Mark modeled the slippers from our rooms for us during Happy Hour. They’re made out of old tires.