Saturday, July 27, 2013

We "retired" our Safari blog when we returned home. But we haven't stopped traveling. We're on to new adventures... I've created a Travel and Learn program for our Sun City Grand Lifelong Learning program (Grand Learning). Learn all about it at

While you're there, sign up to follow our travels. It's easy for you, friends and family to follow us with photos and stories of our journeys. We even have options for those who prefer Facebook or RSS feeds.

  • Just click on Travel and Learn Facebook page. Once there, "like" the page. You'll get a feed on your Facebook news-feed each time we post a new blog. Or, 
  • Follow us by E-mail by clicking on and entering your E-mail address in the box titled "follow by E-mail" located on the right side of the Blog page. 

Saturday, December 1, 2012

We're Home!

We're home.  Laundry is washed, mail is opened (but not dealt with) and we're back to our regular activities - Rand played tennis yesterday and I made it to the gym this AM.  It's good to be home.

The 36 hour return flight (Victoria Falls > Johannesburg > Washington DC > Los Angeles > Phoenix) nearly did us in.  Sleeping in our own bed is a treat.  Speaking of sleeping -  we've been surprisingly free of jet lag this trip.  Wonder why...  

I look back over the trip and have wonderful memories:

Victoria Falls Hotel
  • the charismatic mega fauna - many more animals than we'd ever have expected
  • the local people - so welcoming
  • traveling with our wonderful travel companions - long-time friends and some new ones
  • riding an ostrich and diving with the great white sharks
  • cocktails on the porch of the Victoria Falls Hotel
  • the list is endless

Next steps - organize photos, create slide shows, prepare "Far Away Places" lectures for Grand Learning, etc.  It'll be spring before all that is done.  In the meantime, it's time to start thinking about the upcoming holiday season.  Decorate for Christmas - maybe not this year...

I had such a great time planning this trip for friends and family that I'm now organizing international travel trips for our community lifelong learning academy, Grand Learning.  The program is called Travel and Learn.  Check us out at  We've still got room on our Russia and Iceland trips for summer 2013.  Consider joining us.

If you've been following this blog, I'd love to hear from you.  What worked, what didn't?  Send me a note at  (Note this is the E-mail I use for travel planning, not my personal E-mail address.)


Sunday, November 25, 2012

Victoria Falls

The Zambezi River Bridge
View from our Hotel Porch
Victoria Falls is on the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia. We thought about staying on Zambia side because we don't want to support the government of Robert Mugabe.  However, this time of year the water flow is low and the falls that can be viewed from the Zambia side are dry.  So we rationalized that we're helping the desperately poor people of Zimbabwe by staying on this side.  The town of Vic Falls, the friendly people and the lovely hotels here give no hint of the destitute economy or politics of the country.  Tourist police keep the streets safe.  Even the inevitable street sellers will go away if you firmly say, "No".

It's the beginning of their much needed rainy season so we've had sporadic showers.  We were determined to get photos of the falls with sunshine and rainbows in the mists so we postponed our walk to the falls for two days due to rain showers and overcast skies.  We didn't waste our time while waiting for sunshine.  The first day we walked across the bridge over the Zambezi River to Zambia.  We were befriended by two well spoken young street vendors who entertained us with their stories and encouraged us to try bungee jumping.  We resisted that offer as well as their sales pitch for the jewelry they claimed to make.  We did give them a tip for their "companionship" and went on our way.  That evening we took the sunset cruise on the Zambezi River above the falls.  We enjoyed a beautiful cruise, some interesting wildlife spotting and Italian table mates.  They encouraged us to visit Sicily - hmmm...  another trip?

Red Leswe, water antelope
Saturday we had the day free so we did a day safari to Chobe Park in Botswana.  You'd think we'd had enough of animals, but off we went anyway.  What a delightful surprise!  The park surrounds the Chobe River where we enjoyed close up views of crocs, hippos and elephants from a boat.  We had an exciting moment when we approached too close to an elephant and it moved quickly toward us.  I can't use the term "charged us" because he couldn't move very fast through the water, but made he made it clear we needed to back off.  After lunch we boarded a Land Rover for a land tour through the park.  We encountered more elephants, hippos (out of the water for the first time), red leshwe (water antelope), 7 lions, sable antelope and many more...  The influence of the river and the swamps around it gave us a very different safari experience than we'd had in Tanzania and South Africa.

Despite clouds and scattered showers we visited the falls on Sunday.  Even at low water flow they are magnificent!  Unfortunately due to the weather we don't have trophy photos to bring home with us.  We do have trophy memories of 6+ wonderful weeks in Africa however.  We sat on the porch of the Victoria Falls Hotel last evening and toasted a great trip.  We board the plane this AM for our long trip home.  Farewell Africa!
Chobe River, Botswana

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Zanzibar - The Spice Island

Famous Wooden Doors of Zanzibar
Stone Town is the old part of Zanzibar City.  It's a maze of narrow, winding streets lined with shops, restaurants and homes.  The population and culture are primarily Muslim, very unlike the mainland.  Hot and humid are the only words to describe the climate - unless it's raining, in which case you can say hot, humid and raining.  Our hotel sits on the beach in the heart of Stone Town.  Fortunately our rooms are air conditioned and the pool is cool.

Slave Holding Cell at the Market
We took a 3 hour walking tour of the town.  Highlights included the site of the former slave market and the old market.  Three hours was plenty - we felt like we'd seen all there is to see, unless you want a bit of shopping.

The next day the six of us did a spice plantation and island orientation tour on the way to our accommodations at the Matemwe Beach Inn.  Not much to see on the island, but the plantation was interesting.  We saw local spices -- nutmeg, cardamon, pepper, etc. growing and sampled them in their natural state - right off the tree or bush.  Trust me, fresh pepper is HOT!

Beach at Matemwe
We arrived at our beach accommodations - home for the next 4 nights.  Our hope was to find a quiet place for R&R after the safari.  We succeeded beyond our wildest dreams!  Our days are packed - rise about 6:00 am, coffee and a walk on beach, breakfast, 3 hours in the pool to stay cool, lunch, afternoon in the hammock reading, then a drink and watch the sunset before dinner.  This is a place for serious relaxation!  We've titled the swim pool the hippo pool as we float around in it for hours, just like the hippos in the Serengeti.  Fortunately we are six friends, all talkers, so we've kept boredom at bay.

View from the Hammock
The Indian Ocean is beautiful, the beaches long and white.  Sadly our rooms are not air conditioned so Rand and I have difficulty sleeping.  We're  glad to have the relaxing time with friends, but are again reminded we don't enjoy heat and humidity.  We were ready to move on to Victoria Falls.  We say goodbye to Mary Ann, Byron, Carol and Fran at the Dar es Salaam airport.  They head back to the US and we had for Zimbabwe...

Friday, November 23, 2012

Safari is Over

Karatu School, 5th Grade

Let's look back for a recap of our safari experiences...

Terri and David, Trip Leader
We saw the Big Five (cape buffalo, lion, leopard, elephant and rhino) in both South Africa and Tanzania, including a "5 in 1" (all five in one day) our second day in Kruger.  In Tanzania alone we saw 3 leopards, 63 lions, countless antelope, and tens of thousands of wildebeests and zebras during the migration.  We ran into several waves of the migration.  I once timed a constant stream of running wildebeests and zebras, several animals wide, crossing the road in front of us that went on for more than 12 minutes.

Karatu Farm Woman
We were totally delighted with our travel companions and guides in Tanzania.  Traveling with friends and family is a wonderful way to share experiences and cement relationships.  Our guides were professional, yet fun.  They taught us much about the animals and culture of Tanzania.  We'll long remember them.

6th  Grade Class
Though the safari was over we spent one more day in Karatu participating in a "day in the life" experience.  We started with a morning visit to the Karatu elementary school where we met with 2nd, 5th and 6th graders.  Each class consists of approximately 50 well behaved students who greeted us with smiles and songs.  With the older children we asked and answered questions so they could practice their English.  We are humbled by their enthusiasm for education and learning.  The schools and teachers are accomplishing so much with so little.  We all gave generously to the school through the Grand Circle Foundation.

Brick Yard
A visit to a local brick yard followed our school visit.  The villagers share an area where they dig clay to make bricks.  Each family makes its own for sale, but they help one another with the hard work.  In temperatures reaching 100 with humidity and in full sun they dig the clay, beat it with sticks to pulverize it to dust, mix it with water, form the bricks, let them dry, create a kiln and fire them for 3 days.  In the end they sell each brick for about $1 each.  It is tremendously hard work, but a way to supplement income while awaiting the rains so they can plant crops.  When we see how difficult substance living is here, we realize why the children are so enthusiastic about their education.

Bill, Dave, Byron, Rand, Steve, Terri
Jennifer, Mary Ann, Patsy, Pat, Rick, Fran, Martha, Karen, Carol
One last afternoon at leisure and we re-joined our friends in the other safari group for a "farewell dinner".

Early the next morning we once again boarded our Land Rovers for the 2 hour drive to Arusha.  We had time for one last stop at the Cultural Heritage Center for shopping, then lunch.  Immediately after lunch Mary Ann, Bryon, Fran, Carol, Rand and I said farewell to our travel companions and headed to the airport for our departure to Stone Town in Zanzibar.  The rest of the group would return to the US that evening.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Ants in My Pants 11/12/2012

Sunrise on the Serengeti
Sunday we awoke to find thousands of ants in our toilet area - not just any ants, fire ants.  We shook out our clothing and dressed quickly, getting out of the tent as fast as we could before they spread to the bedroom section of the tent.  I felt prickles on my legs and quickly pulled off my pants and shook them off outside the tent.  So much for modesty.  I went through the same antics once more before ridding myself of the pests.  Fortunately, the camp staff took care of the problem while we were at breakfast.  I don't know what they did (and probably don't want to know what kind of poison it was) but there was no sign of our 6 legged friends when we returned to our tent.
Hadrian's Wall of Wildebeests

One That Didn't Make It

We're totally amazed each day on our game drives as we encounter the continuous migration of the wildebeest and zebra.  We see thousands of them each day in herds that look like Hadrian's Wall, going on for miles from north to south.  We're reminded of the buffalo in the American west and hope these magnificent beasts do not suffer the same fate.  The books say there are about 2 million wildebeest in the migration.  Sometimes we think we've seen them all.

Our days are filled with animal sightings and our nights with their sounds.  We occasionally awaken from a sound sleep to the sounds of lions, zebra, Cape Buffalo and other animals near our tents.  We're told we're perfectly safe inside our tents, so in an act of faith we enjoy the sounds, then roll back over for a couple more hours of slumber.

Ngorngoro Crater 11/13/2012

All These Land Rovers - Must be a Leopard!
We bid a sad farewell to the Serengeti this morning and began our return trip via the Ngorngoro Crater.  The crater is really a collapses volcanic caldera approximately 11 x 13 miles in diameter.  Most of the animals here are resident v. migratory as they are in the Serengeti.  We enjoyed many animal sightings, including the elusive black rhino, but missed the massive numbers we'd seen  in the Serengeti.
No, It's a Lion

We arrived at the Tloma Lodge in Karatu in the late afternoon, dusty and road weary.  We all showered (soaping 2-3 times to get the dust off), then sent our clothes to the laundry.  Next a dip in the pool, a gin and tonic, a wonderful dinner and a good night's sleep.  AHHH...  

Rand and I sat up a long time and talked of the wonderful time we'd had on safari - the animals, the cultural understanding, the camaraderie with friends.  We both regret the trip is coming to an end.  I realized I'd rather be in the Serengeti than Paris. My sister reminds me of my earlier proclamation that this is the last time I'll come to Africa.  I smile and I tell her, "I say a lot of things, don't pay too much attention to some of them - I've changed my mind."   I know I'll return.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Serengeti Welcome 11/09/2012

Rain  is Coming on the Serengeti!

I've been writing as we go along but since we've had very little Internet connection for nearly 2 weeks I'm going to try to catch up with blog reports - probably one a day for several days...

It rained heavily all night - much needed as this area has been in significant drought for several months.  We luxuriated with a bit of a sleep-in and didn't leave the Kitela until 8:30.  Nice...  We filled the gas tanks and tires because we would be in the Serengeti for 4 days.  Up the mountain and at 7500' we were rewarded with a view down into the Ngorngoro Crater.  No time for a visit now, we'll stop on our return.

By noon we were at the Oldupai Gorge (spelled and pronounced "Olduvai" outside of Tanzania), the Cradle of Mankind where the Leakey's discovered the oldest human remains and footprints of the first humanoids to walk upright.  We enjoyed the museum then were able to drive into the gorge to see the actual place the remains were excavated.  Brother-in-law Dave, Rand and our trip leader David held a post graduate level discussion about early humanity that left the rest of us in the dust.  We are continuously amazed by the depth of knowledge David has on a myriad of subjects - from early anthropology to African wildlife to world politics.  Oh, yeah, Dave and Rand are impressive too.

From there we headed for the Serengeti.  First we traveled through the Serengeti Conservation Area, a buffer area around the park where the Masai, their livestock and the wild animals live in harmony.  We saw hundreds of Thompson Gazelle and zebra as well as a number of giraffes and elephants even before we entered the park boundaries which are unfenced.  We didn't think it could get better than that, but again we were wrong.  Within a few miles we encountered the Great Migration of the wildebeest and zebras.  Historically the migration was predictable and would not have been here for another month or two, but climate change is impacting the Serengeti also.  Fortunately, it brought the migration early this year and we are right in the middle of it!

Dining Tent
You didn't really think we'd show us in the shower, did you?
We arrived at our private tented camp later than expected because we stopped frequently to observe the animals.  We're right in the middle of the park with our own walk-in sleeping tents, a dining tent and similar facilities for the kitchen and camp staff.  Sounds rustic, but it's not.  Our tent is outfitted with camp beds - complete with linens, blankets, pillows and en suite facilities (shower and flush toilets).   The latter two keep us from having to leave the tent in the night when animals are nearby.  More about that later...

Cats, Cats and more Cats 11/10/2012

We were up early this morning for a game drive.  We had a hearty breakfast and were in the vehicles at 7:00 in search of wildlife.   In addition to a plethora of other animals, we'd seen elephant, lion, and leopard (3 of the big 5) before lunch.  By evening we'd added the Cape Buffalo.  Only the rhino eluded us, which is not surprising as there are only 28 in a park the size of 6400 sq miles.  We saw more than a dozen lions, several cheetahs, and three leopards this day!  I wonder if our guides are packing in the viewing because we don't know how the weather will be the next few days.  So far we've had rain only at night.  If it rains much more or during the day we won't be able to go to some areas of the park due to mud and road closures.

You'll recognize Rand taking photos
Our days are packed - up at dawn, quick face wash, breakfast and into the Land Rovers for a game drive.  We scout for animals until 1:00 when we return for lunch and 2 hours of down time before a late afternoon game drive.   We return to the camp at 6:30 and clean up for dinner.  We're asleep by 9:00 - exhausted!

About the showers - Twenty liters of warm water are delivered to our tents and hoisted by pulley above the back of our tents.  We take turns slipping into the private shower portion of the tent, turning the lever and wetting down with warm water and quickly turning the water off.  We soap up, shampoo and turn the water back on until it runs out.  When one of us is done the camp staff refills the bucket for the second shower.  Twenty liters lasts a surprisingly long time and is very refreshing after a day on dusty roads with open windows and top.

Saturday evening our group met with our friends in the other group on the Serengeti for sundowners.  We had a glorious reunion - comparing sightings and experiences.