Phew, Here it is. Any questions just ask. DVC - THOMSON SAFARI EXCHANGE 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. GENERAL THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS: 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.