View Full Version : Safari Report (Long)

Scott H
02-15-2003, 09:06 AM
Phew, Here it is. Any questions just ask.


We, My wife Lynn and I, exchanged our DVC points for the Thomson Serengeti Wildlife Safari. We traveled late January and early February 2003. The weather was warm (90's F) during the day and cool (60's) at night, very comfortable. Just like our weather here in Jackson, Wyoming, during the summer.

NOTE: See wildlife list for observations at the various locations.


Thomson Safaris is simply wonderful and excellent and magnificent, etc etc etc. I cannot say enough positive things about their operation and concern for their clients.

Our Driver and Guide were eager to please the clients. Both were very professional and knowledgeable about the area and the wildlife. They are from the area and this helps with their level of knowledge. They really made the trip for our group.

Safari vehicle is a converted Land Rover. Every one gets a window seat and access to the pop up roof. Comfortable seats. Our guide had a library of field guides that he used constantly to interpret the area for us. Very well maintained.

Lots of bottled water was available and we were encouraged to drink plenty.

Guide will advise as to where certain foods should be avoided. This is out of concern for you health and well being during your trip.

The food was great and plentiful at each location. I really liked the coffee.

Lodging was at lodges, which were wonderful. Each lodge had a slightly different décor unique to their area.

With Thomson Safaris you will be assigned a travel advisor to assist with your planning. Ours was fantastic. Heed their advice and follow the planning and packing info sent to you and your trip will be great.

If you can I would highly recommend staying at one of Thomson's Classic Camps. This will provide a great experience. Camping on the Serengeti is without a doubt a classic experience. These are large well appointed tents. Out side there is a patio style area with two chairs, table and washbasins, drinking water, and a hanging mirror. Inside you will find two cots and a small table. The cots are rather comfortable with nice warm blankets and a Masi shuka bedspread. Attached to the rear of the tent is a toilet tent that contains a porta potty. There is a bucket shower for every two tents. The water is plentiful but it is wise to conserve. It was quite and experience to be taking a shower and have lions walk within 30 yards. Also to hear the sounds of Africa at night was only experienced at this classic camp (Lions and hyena). Dining was done in a large dining tent. Meals were excellent and plentiful. The Classic Camp staff was great.

Your typical day will be an AM game viewing with a break for lunch and then an afternoon game viewing drive. Diner was served at about 1900. In Europe and African it was easy for us to get used to the 24-hour clock.

This may not be a trip for everyone; it will be dusty, hot, no air conditioning, very little ice and cool water is a premium. This is a very small price to pay for what you will experience. Be flexible, have a sense of adventure, as Thomson might change your itinerary to ensure better game viewing. They know what they are doing. Remember you are not going the Disney's Animal Kingdom. Visits to The Animal Kingdom will have a very different meaning for us after our experiences in the real Africa.

Know you gear and photo equipment before you go. Bring plenty (lots) of batteries and film or storage media.

Gather lots of info before you go, I did and it made our trip great.

We wore micro fiber clothing and washed it out about every night. This was easy and there is laundry service available just about every night. Even at the classic camp.

Again follow the Thomson information provided and the advice of your advisor closely. This especially includes the information provided on the type and weight of your baggage and the provided packing list. Their info is based on vast experience. I will travel with less on our next trip. YES WE WILL RETURN. African captured our hearts.

The Itinerary We Experienced:

Nights 1&2 - We arrived late at night after an all day flight from AMS on KLM. These nights were sent at the Seronera Mt. Lodge near Mt. Maru amid coffee trees and a small lake. Bird life was great with flocks of egrets and hornbills. The lodging was great in individual round bungalows, mosquito nest on the beds, and very well manicured landscaping. Dining was great in an open air serving area that was covered by a big tent. They were working on the new lodge building that will be impressive. I was impressed by the quality and quantity of the food. I liked the outdoor dining, and I hope they keep it available. The next morning we traveled to a local village in the foothills of Mt Maru. From here we saw the snow on Kilimanjaro. At the village we visited a local farm where he was implementing terraced farming methods. This is subsistence farming where everything is used and nothing is wasted. Had a great lunch with Ugali, a stiff corn mush. I liked it. We then visited a local school. This was great and I feel every child in the US should experience just to be thankful for what they have. These kids were wonderful, and extremely well mannered. Our group a few boxes of pens and pencils. Lastly we visited with the local healer and learned of the plants used for healing. This was great. The first day was wonderful introduction to the gracious people of Tanzania.

Nights 3&4 - Tarangire - From the Mt Maru area we drove to Tarangire National Park. As we arrived we saw an expansive valley with hinders and I mean hundreds of elephants (tembo) browsing. This was a magnificent sight. Lodging was at the Tarangire Wildlife Lodge; rooms were either permanent tents or bungalows each with a private bath. We had a large salamander in our bungalow and we called him George. I think he was there for insect control. If so he did a great job.
Our guide advised that we should not eat any of the fruit; bananas were ok if you pealed it, or salads at this location. Simply put follow the old travelers adage don't eat if it can't be pealed, boiled, or cooked. We followed his advice. Juice was OK to drink. I should mention that at each lodge we stayed at and even the classic camp, upon your arrival you are greeted with a glass of juice and warm wet washcloths to wash off the dust of your journey. This was a very nice touch.

My advice is if you are not a morning person when you visit Africa, become one. I am a morning and night person so I get to enjoy both. Coffee was delivered to our room before dawn and it was a pleasure to enjoy the stars (seeing the Southern Cross) as dawn arrived. One morning not less than 20 yards away were a small group of tembo. It was exhilarating to share the morning with these critters.

Nights 5&6 - Travel to Ngorongoro Crater, Say good-bye to the few paved roads you experienced prior to this. Welcome dusty travel. Lodging was at the Seronera Crater Lodge on the Crater Rim. What a view, it is very difficult to describe. . See list for wildlife viewing. To reiterate the Rhino sightings were awesome for me. Rooms very comfortable with a veranda that over looked the crater. Enjoyed coffee as the sun rose over the Crater. What an experience. The food was very good with no restriction form our guide.

Nights 7,8, &9 - The Classic camp is great. Not to be missed. See wildlife viewing list. We loved the Classic Camp. This is the quintessential Africa experience. See description above. Here we saw the start of the Wildebeest migration. I cannot describe the multitude and vastness of this event. A line of Wildebeest from horizon to horizon 20 deep on the move.

Night 10 - Seronera Serengeti Lodge. On our last day we did the Serengeti Balloon flight. This also should not be missed. Watching the sunrise as you ascend above the endless plain.

As I said we will return. DVC has done a great job with their association with Thomson Safaris.

This is just a thumbnail sketch so feel free to ask specifics.

Also I would break up the flights to Africa with a couple of days in Europe before and after. We did 4 nights before and only one after. Could have used a couple after.

02-15-2003, 09:19 AM
What a wonderful trip report. This is something we hope to do someday and your decription add much to that desire. Thanks for sharing your experience.:D

02-15-2003, 10:03 AM
Thanks so much for sharing your experience with us!

02-15-2003, 02:42 PM
Thanks so much for taking the time and trouble to post this trip report. It sounds like a fascinating trip. What was the size of your group, and did it seem to cater to any particular age group? Did you encounter lots of other vehicles on your treks to view wildlife? What and where is the "wildlife list"? Again, thanks for sharing.

Scott H
02-15-2003, 07:03 PM
Our group was size was six people with ages from early 30's to 60+. At times we did see a few other vehicles, our guides seemed to know the more remote areas and we avoided several of tee traffic jams. They did a great job. The wildlife list is attached. It is also kinda long but here it is. It is a chronicle of what we say each day.

28/01/03 - Arrive at JRO to warm windy conditions. I remember the smell of wood burning in Africa. Lodging at Saronera Mt. Lodge amid the coffee trees. Happy Birthday Janice.

29/01/03 - Breakfast under an expansive tent where we saw egret and a Silvery Cheeked Hornbill. Travel to Ngirse Village to visit a farm and learn of their lifestyle. We will never forget the school visit and the village healer. We had our first taste of Africa with a lunch of Ugali, beef and other vegetables followed by coffee and tea.
I feel I experienced the true spirit of man and realized we in our culture live with too much and should be content with less.

30/01/03 - Mt Maru area to Tarangire. Whilst en route we observed camel, zebra, and small herds of brama cattle and goats tended to by the Masai . We saw our first Boma. Open plains with the occasional acacia tree and termite mound. We saw European and Abdims Stork and ostrich. From the acacia trees hung the weaver nests. After entering Tarangire we spotted our first elephant. A flurry of activity as we were deafened by the volley of camera shutters. After settling in at the lodge we further explored Tarangire. Here we observed the following. Lots of tembo, Twiga, Impala, vervet monkeys, helmeted guineafowl, yellow necked Spurfowl, red necked Spurfowl, Ashy Starling, Yellow Billed Ox Picker, grey hornbill, baboon, white crowned shrike, Go way bird, Magpie shrike, grey headed king fisher, yellow headed love birds, blacked faced sand grouse. Pied king fisher, three banded plover, black plover, martial eagle, red billed hornbill, Dik Dik, white head vulture, lilac breasted roller and the orange billed parrot.

31/01/03 - Tarangire - This full day at Tarangire we observed ground hornbills, white headed weaver, lots o Tembo, Dik Dik, hammerkop, bateleur eagle, Yellow colored love birds, White breasted kukau, Saddle billed Stork, Grants Gazelle, Shrike, Mbuni (ostrich), warthog, Ruppell's Griffon Vulture, Tawny Eagle, baboons, Impala, water buck, ˝ of a buffalo, lion, Egyptian goose, and Banded Mongoose .

01/02/03 - Tarangire to Ngorongoro Crater - Our intrepid travelers bid a fond adue' to paved roads. Before leaving Tarangire there are elephants hanging out to have coffee with us at 0600. This day we observe Mountague Harrier, Marabou Stork, Augur Buzzard, a couple of Flamingos, Tommies, warthogs, Grants Gazelle, Buffalo, Mbuni, zebra, Crested Cranes, Sacred Ibis, Cox ?????, Golden Jackal, Black Rhino too KEWL, Eland, Grey Heron, Yellow Billed Stork, Red Billed Duck, Sacred Ibis, Black Headed Vulture, Hippo, Spur Winged Goose, lion, Timbo, Black Billed Bustard, Egyptian Goose, Glossy Ibis, Cattle Egret, white pelican, African Spoonbill, Saddlebill Stork and Fish Eagle.

02/02/03 - A Day in the Ngorongoro Crater - Descending from the height of the crater Rim we explored the crater floor and discovered these animals. Black Winged Stilt, Hoten Tot Teal, little egret, Augur Buzzard, White billed Bustard, Spotted hyena, Blacked back Jackal, Crested Cranes, Stripped Swallow, Cheetah, yellow billed kite, African Hoopoe, a couple of Flamingos, Mountague Harrier, Marabou Stork, Augur Buzzard, Tommies, warthogs, Grants Gazelle, Buffalo, Mbuni, zebra, Sacred Ibis, Cox ?????, Golden Jackal, Black Rhino again too KEWL, Eland, Grey Heron, Yellow Billed Stork, Red Billed Duck, Sacred Ibis, Black Headed Vulture, Hippo, Spur Winged Goose, lion, Timbo, Black Billed Bustard, Egyptian Goose, Glossy Ibis, Cattle Egret, white pelican, African Spoonbill, Saddlebill Stork and Fish Eagle.

03/02/03 - Travel from the Nogorongoro Crater Rim to the Naabi Hill Camp site in the Serengeti. A short visit at a Masi boma to see the one stripped zebra. A stop at Olduvai Gorge. The days observations were as follows: Sten Buck, Secretary Bird, Augur Buzzard, Bat eared Fox, Booted Eagle, Pale Chanting Goshawk, Grants Gazelle, Golden jackal, Twiga, Tommie, Abdims Stork, European Stork, Zebra, Mbuni, Hartebeest, a few Wildebeest just a couple, Lion, Red Billed Buffalo Weaver, agama, Nubian Vulture, Marabou Stork, White Headed Eagle, little egrets, African Hare, spotted hyena, Twiga, golden jackal, warthog, and Kori Bustard.

04/02/03 - After a most restful nigh in our snug Classic Camp Cots where we were lulled to LaLa Salama by the sounds of Hyena and Lion, we arose to a glorious sunrise with the anticipation of a wonderful day. The day would not disappoint. Lion, zebra, European Stork, Abdims Stork, Kori Bustard, Again just a few Wildebeests, Golden Jackal, Tommies, Grants Gazelle, agama, Leopard face Vulture, Nubian Vulture, Marabou Stork, Spotted Hyena, Mbuni, Warthog, Black Shouldered Kites, Helmeted Guineafowl, Dik Dik, Tembo, Red throated Spurfowl, Crested Cranes, Serval Cat, Fischers Love Birds, Flamingos, Egyptian Geese, Sandpiper, Little Stilt, Impala, Vervet Monkeys, Baboons, Twiga, Leopard, Cheetah, Giant Mongoose, Nubian Vulture,

05/02/03 - After the most beautiful sunset we slept well and arose to another day of viewing the wonders of the Serengeti. Observed were Lion, Wildebeest, zebra, Nubian vulture, European Stork, Abdims Stork, Secretary Bird, Kori Bustard, Rufus Tail Weaver, Helmeted Guineafowl, Harrier Hawk, Mbuni, Topi, Spotted Hyena, Gray Heron, Kestrels, Twiga, Hartebeest, Grants Gazelle, Tembo, Fisher Sparrow-Lark, Pintail Whydah, Tommies, Red Throat Spurfowl, Marabou Stork, Crested Cranes, Olive Baboons, Vervet Monkeys, Defassa Water Buck, Leopard and cub, Impala, Topi, Buffalo, Banded Mongoose, Ox pecker, White Headed Buffalo Weaver, Green Wood Hoopoe, White Headed Vulture, African Hare, Tawny Eagle, Fischer Love Birds, agama, African Wild Cat, Rhino (only 4 in the Serengeti, guarded 24/7), Hottentot Teal, and Spar Winged Goose.

06/02/03 - Today we bid a fond farewell to our camp staff and explore the Serengeti knowing the Geri will have a long hot shower this evening. En route this day we observe the following. European Stork, Abdims Stork, Nubian Vulture, Kestrels, Hildebrandt's Starling, Harrier Hawk, Mbuni, Tommie, Black Shouldered Kite, Warthog, Wild Helmeted Guineafowl, Wildebeest, Zebra, Lion, Ant Eater Chat, Termite Mound, Tembo, Twiga, White Bellied Bustard, Agama, Hartebeest, Grant's Gazelle, Crested Cranes, Topi, Impala, spotted hyena, Buffalo, Hippo, Secretary Bird, Kori Bustard, Bush Hyrax, Baboons, Little Weaver, Grey Headed Sociable Weaver, Red Cheeked Cordon Bleu, Quail Finch, Hippo, Fish Eagle, Darnauds Varvet, Croc, African Pie Wartel, Night Heron, and Paradise Whydah.

07/02/03 - Pre-dawn we awake to prepare for our Balloon Safari over the Serengeti. We drive in darkness to see the balloon partially inflated and the basket lying on its side. We take out station and with the expansion of the warm air we are lifted above the Serengeti Plains. From our eagle like perch we see the following. Bat eared Fox, Spotted hyena, Reed buck, baboon, Helmeted Guineafowl, waterbuck, hippo, buffalo, zebra, Grants Gazelle, Hartebeest, White Egret, Twiga, Wildebeest, Nubian Vulture, Baboon, Lion, Black Backed Jackal, Cheetah, Black-Tipped Mongoose, Topi, Bushbuck, Buffalo, Marabou Stork, Impala, Tommies, and Flamingoes.

Andrea T
02-15-2003, 07:38 PM
Scott...what an exciting trip! Other than airfare, what other expenses were there after arriving in Africa. Was the ballooning included? Would it be a "hard" trip for your stereo-typical soccer mom type? And now for a question MANY will find ridiculous, but I have to ask...were there a lot of bugs and or snakes? This is a trip my husband would love to do , but not sure if I have "the right stuff". Thanks for the wonderful report!

02-15-2003, 08:24 PM
Wow. Thank you so much for sharing.

02-15-2003, 08:48 PM
Thanks, sounds like a great adventure!

Scott H
02-16-2003, 09:16 AM

Other expenses we had included souvenirs , tips, drinks, laundry, and photo fees if you visit a Masai Boma.

Thomson suggests $500 per person and this is pretty close depending on how much shopping you do. I thought the tipping guidelines were low considering the service we received. Tipping is a personal matter.

We had a typical soccer mom in our group. she was traveling with her father and had a great time.

Snake report for the whole group was two for the whole trip. I did not see a one. There were plenty of bugs. Mosquitos and teetse flys, good bug repellant helped. Malaria prophylaxis is necessary. We used malarone without a problem. Two in the group used larium and did have the vivid dreams. This is a personal choice so see your doc and do some research to see what is best for you. We also carried some Hydrocodone and cipro as well as the standard pepto and imodium.

The balloon ride was not included and was $395 per person. It is pricey but worth it.

To all thanks for the kind words and I am sorry for the typos.

We are planning on doing it again the 2005 for our 25th anniversary.

02-16-2003, 10:42 AM
I just booked my trip on Friday for the same Safari leaving Sept 29th. I can't wait!!!!!! Thanks for all the info!

02-16-2003, 11:26 AM
Wow, this sounds like an amazing experience. I'm so glad that you had such a memorable time!

02-16-2003, 11:36 AM
Scott thank you so much for sharing this report on your fabulous trip! You are the first that I have heard from after taking this Safari tour.

May I ask how many points it was for the two of you? I think the stopover in Europe is a great idea and maybe a way to squeeze in a DL Paris trip too!

Did you take the trip insurance for this? Did you need to check prior to traveling as far as what medical coverage your health insurance includes on such an adventure? I always worry bout that stuff, lol.

Sounds like it will be a great anniversary trip for you both down the road too! :)

Scott H
02-16-2003, 02:03 PM

The Safari was 900 points for the two of us.

Yes we got the trip insurance and at this time I am not impressed with Travel Guard as they only sold us the Medical policy and not the baggage policy.

I discovered this when I called them about 10 min ago. Lynn had a little accident and destroyed our camera before the trip. Thanks to a DLP cast member we were directed to a Mall where we found a replacement. The moral is Travel Guard Policies should be checked. Of course they sent me bag stickers, camera stickers etc , so I assumed we were covered. Just disappointed that I was not aware of the deficiency in my coverage. This did not deter from a great trip.

I did check with our medical insurance providers before and have a great medical evacuation policy from Americana Express.

02-16-2003, 03:15 PM
When I booked my trip with Disney on Friday, I was told they provide a medical policy for care and evacuation, and I also have the evacuation insurance from American Express. I checked with my medical insurance, Blue-Cross Blue-Shield, and was told they will cover medical expenses in Africa, but I should be prepared to pay for the expenses up front with a charge card. Thanks for the info about Travel Guard. When I checked with them, I was told their policy was $191. However, since that time I have been told by Disney that there is a discount. Scott, what did you pay? By the way, in case anyone wants to know, the single supplement is $390.

Scott H
02-16-2003, 06:13 PM
The $191 sounds about right for the insurance. I am really considering using another insurance for loss and delay. All the info we received indicated it was otherwise. Oh well live and learn and take your business elsewhere.

Scott H
02-16-2003, 06:56 PM
Cher8745 the premium was $267. I just found the record. This record indicated we had the total coverage i.e. delay etc. Thanks for making me dig that up.

So we actually had two Travel Guard policies. One for delay and one medical. Separate numbers. The first 2 travel guard reps I talked with could not locate the delay and loss policy when searching their data base. One rep ( the second call) was rather short with me. Left a very bad taste. Funny that person did not log the call as she should have.

Later today I noticed we had two different numbers (After checking the amount) I called back (3ed time)and this rep noted the two policies right away.

I will file a claim on Monday and see what happens. Thank goodness I keep good records. It might be worth it but will understand if it should not be covered.

Still miffed at Travel Guard but not as much as before.

02-16-2003, 10:10 PM
Thanks for such a vivid description of your safari. We would love to go, and I think your report is very inspiring. Glad you had a safe trip. Sandie B

04-10-2003, 04:55 PM

Ooops. This is the thread I meant to bump. Someone was looking for it in the megapoints threads and I didn't know how to post a link to it. :confused:

Hope this helps.