Ah, now the safari. This was the very, very best travel experience we have ever had. It was an incredible experience that is really difficult to put into words but the lasting effect of it you can hear in the voices of anyone who has ever taken a safari in Africa....and has been changed by it forever.
We flew into Klein's Camp via a very, very tiny plane and landed on an equally tiny strip of unpaved ground. There we met our guide/driver for the next ten days, Edward. He turned out to be the best animal spotter, he was incredible. So incredible that we were the only people we ran into who actually saw the black rhino. I must say, we were awfully smug about it too.
As we walked down the path and stepped onto the terrace bar in Klein's Camp I nearly started to cry. My voice seemed to be all choked up and I could barely speak. t was so, so perfect. Rarely in life does a place actually live up to (and exceed) one's expectations. The view was breathtaking, the huge fireplace in the middle of the room, the decorations with just the right touch of comfort, antiquity, and pizzaz, the welcoming smiles and handshakes, the offer of coffee (we were cold) with brandy in it. The excitement of fellow traveler's just in from the morning's game drive, bursting with tales of animals sighted, bumpy roads, dust....but SO excited and alive! We couldn't wait to get started.
We took almost daily early morning and afternoon game drives and two night drives. We saw an amazing assortment and volume of animals. The sight of thousands and thousands of zebra and wildebeest running through dust in their quest for water is mind-bogglingly beautiful. Hundreds and hundreds of elephants of all sizes walking, fighting, rolling in the dust, splashing water around, stripping the trees of leaves, breaking huge branches off, forming immediate circles, with their faces turned out, around their little ones whenever they sensed danger, and, also, always on the move looking for water.
The lions were so brave and lolled around sleeping peacefully, unconcerned with the passing by of other animals....knowing full well that they are, indeed, the King of the Jungle (or, in this case, the Bush). We occasionally watched female lions hunting but saw no kill actually take place. We did see the remains of kills with nearby trees chock full of vultures watching and waiting for the lions to leave so that they could bustle about with the hyenas over the leftovers.
We also saw lions and leopards sleeping in trees with their big paws and huge bodies stretched out and perfectly balanced while they calmly slept the afternoon away with their bellies full.
The fat-bodied warthogs were the most comical of all the animals as they ran across the plains on their short little legs....with their tales sticking straight up in the air like antennas and their babies following along behind.
We also saw jackal, wildebeest, hartebeest, impala, dik dik, topi, water buffalo, hippos, crocodile, reed buck, baboons, monkeys, mongoose, gazelles, waterbuck, cheetah, serval cats and a deadly green mambo snake...and, even a camel! We never tired for a moment of yet one more look at the ever graceful zebra and giraffes. Spotted and identified by our guide, were over forty different birds, some so vibrantly colored and plumed.
The lodges were beyond magazine perfect. Ngorogoro Crater Lodge was on a par with Klein's Camp and offered perfection in every way. The African style decorations in the lodge were mixed with crystal chandeliers, old sculls and antlers of long-gone animals, to free-standing bathtubs where one could watch the animals strolling by outside the hut and peer deep into the crater while bathing in rose-sprinkled water drawn for you by your personal butler.....with a roaring fire crackling away in the next room.
The food in all the lodges was fabulous. We were especially keen on the soups and I kept thinking that someone should write a cookbook on the soups of African Safari Lodges. I'd be first in line to buy it! We usually had five courses at both lunch and dinner. We were amazed at the type and quality of food that could be turned out in places where there was absolutely no evidence of any place where food could be purchased. We were fed a gourmet breakfast, fit for a king with enough food to feed a horde of people, in the picnic area where zebra strolled by and little green birds tried to join our meal, finally stealing a big loaf of bread which they did not generously share with fellow birds. During night drives, as soon as the sun set, a table would be set up alongside of the landrover and drinks and snacks were served....right in the middle of the bush! We are still trying to rid ourselves of added pounds.
On our last night of the safari we stayed in a permanent tented camp. The tents were built on huge, really huge, boulders looking out over a ravine where you could see and hear the animals roaming by. Our tent had canvas sides, a thatched roof, was built up on stilts, with a hot shower but no sink, a private toilet where one poured in some sort of chemical after using but with no odor at all. We were exhausted when we arrived, had our typical greeting of a cold, wet towel, and a glass of juice, and flopped down on our cots for a nice afternoon nap when suddenly appeared a big, nasty fly outside of the tent with a fierce determination to annoy us with three straight hours of the loudest buzzing you could imagine. I sprayed the thing with an entire can of bug spray at intervals the whole afternoon but he never flagged in his quest to buzz the afternoon away.
At sunset we walked over to have a drink. Chairs were set up on one of the huge boulders with a fire pit in the middle smoking away, clearing the air of mosquitoes and other bugs. While we were sipping our drinks, enjoying a lovely sunset, the Masai lodge workers started singing with the most glorious voices that it raised the hair on our arms. When we asked what they were singing about they said....they missed their cows and were singing to them.
An extraordinary last night, we dined under the stars, never wanting to leave.
Edie and Richard R.
Palm Beach, FL