OUR EAST AFRICAN SAFARI
IN MARCH 2000
In March 2000 we took the Princess Cruises Safari Cruisetour to East Africa. This consisted of four days on safari followed by eleven days on the Pacific Princess. It was a wonderful experience and a once in a lifetime thrill that we are extremely glad we participated in.

This review covers the safari portion of our trip. The cruise is covered in a separate review.

We had independent air arrangements. We flew out of San Francisco to Amsterdam, and had a day room in a hotel near the airport so we got a few hours sleep during the day. Then we flew to Nairobi overnight. We both sleep pretty well on the plane so it was not too bad, but it is a LOOOONG flight!!

A Princess representative met us in Nairobi and took care of us, and got us to the hotel, the Hyatt Regency. We got settled in our room and had lunch, and after lunch was the Safari briefing. We both got free safari hats from the company ... they were nice! Then we had a tour of Nairobi, which wasn't very exciting, and went to Karen Blixen's house (she wrote "Out of Africa" and there was a movie with Robert Redford, evidently ... I had never heard of it!) and the Giraffe Conservation Center. I got a picture of Renée being kissed by a giraffe (you put a food pellet in your mouth!) and they also had a wonderful family of wart hogs wallowing in the mud!!

Then for dinner we went to the Carnivore restaurant (an option with the tour group). It is a restaurant which has a massive grill and skewers and skewers of meat grilling ... the servers bring the skewers around to your table and cut off a serving for you. We had beef, lamb, pork ribs, sausages and chicken, and the specialties wildebeest, zebra and crocodile! I liked the wildebeest and zebra, but not the crocodile! It was quite an experience!

The next morning we got up and loaded on the safari vans. As we often do, Renée and I lingered until the last, and as a result we only had four people in our van instead of six! Our companions were a mother and daughter named Nancy and Bambi ... Bambi is a Travel Agent so she and Renée had a lot to talk about! Our driver was named Joseph. We had a nice little Safari van with a lid that popped up for taking pictures, and a cooler full of bottled water and sodas for us!

Luggage must be loaded in the back of the safari van, so it is restricted to one small bag per person. We started the drive to Amboseli National Park. The roads, even the main highways, are miserable and bumpy and totally washed out in places.

Even before we got to the park we started to see interesting things like Umbrella Acacia Trees and termite mounds. Then we saw a few zebras and some ostriches, kinda far off. Just as we entered the park a gerenuk, or Giraffe Gazelle, bounded across the road. Joseph said they were real rare ... it was the only one we saw the whole time. As soon as we entered the park we started seeing wildlife. The brochure said to bring binoculars but we hardly ever needed them! The animals were real close up and not afraid of the vans. Then we started seeing wildebeest (gnus) and zebras. They travel in mixed herds and often filled both sides of the road while we drove between them. Lots of them had babies with them.

We did not even need to use the telephoto lens on the camera a lot of the time. We also saw some families of warthogs ... they are more shy and would not come as close to the road. Also we saw lots of ostriches ... the females are grey and the males are black.
Then we started getting into the elephant territory and soon saw big herds of elephants. They have white birds called cattle egrets which live on their backs and around the herd and eat the bugs they stir up. We saw lots of gazelles, the little antelopes. We also saw a number of giraffes, like this big fellow grazing very close to the road. Then we started to get into the swampy part of the park and saw some hippos!

We finally got to the Oltukai Lodge and found out that we had shot up over four rolls of film! The lodge was OK, nothing very exciting ... they even had bottled water to brush your teeth with ... we had been warned to avoid the water, but told the salad and the ice were OK. They weren't ... both Renée and I came down with Traveler's Diarrhea during the cruise!

There was an electric fence around the lodge, but not very far away. Our cabin was called "Elephant View" and it was true ... there was a herd of elephants grazing where we could see from our veranda!

Meals at the Lodge were buffet style and not all that great. There was always something to eat but it was strictly routine. The rooms were fine. Sleeping under mosquito netting was an experience! In the morning there was a large hippo eating grass just past the breakfast table. Renée got a kick out of having breakfast with a hippo.

That afternoon we went to a real Masai village. The headman of the village charged us $20 each to come in. The Masai are a proud people and don't want to give up their way of life, but it was really appalling ... far too many flies for me. Each man has several wives and each wife has several kids so it was well populated. They live in low roofed huts made of cow dung. Renée went in one, but I couldn't stand it! Americans should be very grateful for our standard of living compared to so many of the people of the world.

Then we left for Tsavo national park, looking for game on the way. The roads were raw dirt, bumpy and muddy, so it was quite a ride. The vans have specially strengthened suspensions, and the drivers are good at avoiding ruts and potholes, but it is still no ride for the faint-hearted!

We saw most of the same animals we had seen the day before, plus this pair of lazy looking lions! None of the animals seem to be afraid of the tourist vans. The pop tops on the vans give plenty of opportunity for good pictures.

In Tsavo we saw the "red elephants" ... they like to throw the red dust from the ground over themselves so they really look red! And we saw big herds of Cape Buffalo, very close to the road. Tsavo is also known for its bird life ... we saw marabou storks, secretary birds, briliant blue starlings, and a lovely bird called the lavender breasted roller.

As we were driving along, we saw a big bull elephant walking down the road towards us ... he just kept coming and coming, and I think our driver was beginning to wonder how fast he could drive backwards! But finally the elephant turned off the road and we could go on.

We saw a lot of impala in Tsavo... that is a bigger kind of antelope. We saw some more lions, and the tracks of a cheetah. Our driver kept saying "he must be around here someplace" but we never saw the cheetah.

We stayed at the Voi Lodge in Tsavo. It was perfectly nice but nothing exciting. The food continued to be routine. At the lodge, there were troops of baboons and monkeys. One baboon climbed down off the roof and snatched some carrots right off the plate of one member of our group. There were also rock hyraxes ... they look like rabbits with short ears ... running around the place.

The lodge overlooked a water hole and we could see the elephants coming to drink from our room window ... also cape buffalo and waterbucks, a bigger kind of antelope.

I bet I have missed some animals ... it was a really amazing experience! The animals were all close up and not afraid of the vehicles. Oh yes, we also saw some hyenas, but not close up. They were running to a kill which was covered with vultures .. they chased the vultures off so they could get some!

The next morning we drove to Mombasa to get on the ship. The Mombasa-Nairobi road is one of the countries main highways, and it is in appaling condition!! Whole sections of it are washed out and nothing but dirt and rocks. The safari was a wonderful experience, but after four days of it we were ready to get to the ship and have some luxury for a change!!

For our review of the Pacific Princess cruise, CLICK HERE

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