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Safari Photo Essay

Images of Kenya and Tanzania

The wonders of East Africa have the power to stir your senses and to excite your curiosity. The sights, the sounds, the sweeping panoramic landscape shock with their emotional impact. Even the jaded traveler will find much that jogs the imagination: the gorge where the Leakeys made their discoveries; the Ngorongoro Crater, whose caldera shelters one of the world¹s most beautiful wildlife havens; the vast Serengeti, populated by the primitive colorful Masai Mara tribe and by hundreds of thousands of herds living on and migrating across the dusty plain.

The experience of Dark Africa, envisioned in traditional tented accommodations and game parks where animals roam unfettered and birds flap their wings overhead or hide in trees, is overwhelmingly physical and richly visual.

No pictorial essay of that part of the continent would be fully descriptive without a few photographs of the dramatically designed lodges and camps. For those who require luxury on a trip, it exists in Kenya and Tanzania. Tents have electricity and running water; hotels provide a high level of comfort and creative architecture consistent with the environment.

The thrilling wildlife trophies that travelers on safari now bring home are shot with a camera rather than a gun.

African Travel arranged the safari on which these photos were taken. African Travel, The Safari Building, 1100 E. Broadway, Glendale, CA. 91205. Tel. 800-421-8907.

Sylvia Frommer-Mracky, The Africa Desk, Production Travel & Tours, 10554 Riverside Drive, North Hollywood, CA 91602, tel. 818-760-0327, is a specialist in arranging African travel. Telephone or e-mail her at clubtrvl@aol.com to answer questions and to book individualized itineraries.
The Ark, Aberdares, Kenya
Baboon, Samburu National Reserve, Kenya
(Credit: Edwin C. Fancher)
Cheetahs, Mt. Kenya Game Ranch and Animal Orphanage, Kenya (Credit: Edwin C. Fancher)
Giraffe Center, near Nairobi
(Credit: Edwin C. Fancher)
Thompson¹s gazelles,
Samburu National Reserve, Kenya
(Credit: Edwin C. Fancher)
Serengeti Serena Lodge,
Serengeti National Park, Tanazania
(Credit: Edwin C. Fancher)
Bongo, Mt. Kenya Game Ranch and Animal Orphanage, Kenya (Credit: Edwin C. Fancher)
Lions at Ngorongora Crater, Tanzania
(Credit: Edwin C. Fancher)
Ngorongoro Crater Lodge, Rim of the Crater, Tanzania (Credit: Edwin C. Fancher)
Crowned Crane and Rhinoceros,
Mt. Kenya Game Ranch Animal Orphanage
(Credit: Edwin C. Fancher)
Wildebeest Migration,
Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
(Credit: Edwin C. Fancher)
Zebroid, Mt. Kenya Game Ranch and Animal Orphanage, Kenya (Credit: Edwin C. Fancher)
Masai Villagers, Masai Mara, Kenya
(Credit: Edwin C. Fancher)
Elephants, Serengeti National Reserve,
Tanzania (Credit: Edwin C. Fancher)
Lake Manyara, Tanazania
(Credit: Edwin C. Fancher)

Winter 1999-2000

Kenya and Tanzania

African Safari, Continued

After the safari photo essay appeared in the winter issue of CEO Traveler, readers wrote to say how much they enjoyed the pictures and that they would like to know more about the trip. I’m answering these requests with an article about my experience.

The big game hunt was on. The land cruiser bounced slowly over the terrain. Six passengers, led by a driver-guide, had come a long way to see and to shoot strong sleek animals. They carried binoculars and cameras and peered through the vehicle’s roof, which was open for better viewing. A flood of memories from countless wildlife films and old photographs poured forth–lions nonchalantly viewing intruders in the game parks, the sighting of a dangerous Cape buffalo straining across a moat or a delicate timid nyala hiding in the bush and distinguished gentlemen like Theodore Roosevelt and the Prince of Wales hunting untamed species on the Dark Continent.

It was our second day in Kenya and the one on which we launched our safari in earnest. I had arrived in Nairobi the previous morning and was greeted at the airport by a courier from African Express, the Kenyan affiliate of the company through which I booked the tour in the United States. He escorted me to the first of the Lonrho Hotels in which we would stay while in Kenya, the historic Norfolk Hotel, where Ernest Hemingway, Winston Churchill and other big game hunters had also signed the guest register.

Nairobi is a dangerous place in which to walk, particularly on Sunday when the town is shuttered. But the planned excursion to two legendary sites compensated for the disappointment of not being able to get lost on foot in the big city. We visited the Karen Blixen Museum, which is housed in her former residence. The release of the movie "Out of Africa," based on her book about farming a large coffee plantation on the surrounding tract and her complex relationships with the natives, aroused international interest in the writer and led to the opening of the museum.

That same afternoon, along with other tourists and local children, we stopped at the Langata Giraffe Center to observe the famous Rothschild giraffes. Some of the spotted animals were as tall as 18 feet. Visitors fed them through a wire fence while standing on an elevated platform.

In the evening, we ate at Nairobi’s most unusual open-air restaurant, the incomparable Carnivore, featuring grilled game–zebra, ostrich, hartebeest, crocodile, wildebeest and elan. Combination plates are offered so that diners can sample several of these delicious meats.

Following breakfast at the Norfolk, we loaded up the vehicle and set out for the Aberdare Mountains, reaching the Aberdare Country Club in time for lunch. Throughout Kenya, the roads are paved for long stretches, but then they become pothole-filled dirt. In addition to speaking English well and knowing everything about the animals, plants and history of the area, our driver-guide was as skilled as an Olympic slalom skier in "schussing" around potholes.

We spent the night at The Ark, a large wooden building on piles with upswept bows and so named because of its resemblance to the ark where Noah took refuge. It overlooks a floodlit glade with a salt lick and waterhole. From the open deck above and the expansive windows on the lower floor, we observed families of elephants shielding their young, nervous gazelles keeping an eye open for predators while always poised to flee into the bush should a lion appear and herds of water buffalo led by males who fought over dominance.

Since the temperature drops after dark due to the 7,500-foot elevation, hot water bottles are tucked into the beds. When an especially interesting species arrives, in our case it was a panther, guests wrap themselves in their blankets and rush to the deck to try to catch the sight.

We then traveled to the posh Mt. Kenya Safari Club, 7,000 feet above sea level on the lower slopes of Mt. Kenya. Although it is located at the equator, a log fire burned each evening in the elegant private cabins.

An animal orphanage on the grounds features a veritable zoo of abandoned animals, including three young cheetahs, monkeys, ostriches, bongos (their skin is used to make bongo drums) and a 130-year old turtle on whose back you can ride.

The following morning we descended 3,000 feet to enter Samburu National Park. This is a land of semi-desert with relief coming from the winding Uaso Nyiro River, its green banks rimmed with palms and providing refuge for some rare species like gerenuks and dik diks.

Our next lodging, Sweetwaters Tented Camp, at the nearby Sweetwaters Game Reserve was modeled after camps of yesteryear, but was comfortably appointed with concrete floors, electricity and en suite bathrooms. Each large tent faces a shallow moat with an electric fence that separated us from an illuminated waterhole where giraffes, elephants, waterbucks and oryx play out nightly dramas of survival. Other resident game include Grant’s gazelles, Thompson gazelles, cheetahs, jackals, ostriches and baboons.

During an afternoon drive, we had our picture taken with a domesticated black rhino, Morani, who has lived on the ranch and was raised by humans since his mother was killed in 1974. Because Sweetwaters is a private property, we were able to take a nocturnal game drive to see species that make themselves scarce during daylight–leopards, silverbacked hyenas, aardvarks and porcupines. Drives in darkness are especially exciting as an animal’s glowing eyes can often be seen before determining its shape and the pattern of the fur.

The Jane Goodall Chimpanzee Sanctuary is on the grounds and can only be reached by boat. The 27 resident chimps–each has a name–like to show off and amuse visitors by running along the riverbank.

Our last exposure to a game park in Kenya was the important Masai Mara National Reserve, reached by a short flight from Nanyuki airport and abutting to the south, the great Serengeti of Tanzania. We bedded at the exclusive Mara Safari Club in luxurious tents with verandahs from which we could look down on the Mara River where approximately 15 hippos lolled in the brown water, surfacing with their noses and making loud snorts every few minutes.

During the stay at the club, our driver-naturalist took us into the savanna plain, off the reserve roads to seek out the hiding places of lions, jackals and rare birds. He knew where to locate every animal and plant variety and had a tale to tell about each one.

Masai Mara is also the land of the Masai, the natives about whom Karen Blixen wrote. An ancient people, famous as fierce warriors, the government granted them permission to continue their traditional ways of grazing cattle on the reserve. We were permitted to visit a village for a fee and went inside one family’s small dung and clay thatched-roof hut. Since the Masai will only allow their photographs to be taken for money, the village is the best place to snap pictures of them in their tribal dress–bright red blankets–and of the men bearing steel-tipped spears.

After a flight to Nairobi where we remained overnight, we were driven to Tanzania and met at the border by a representative from Bushbuck Safaris, organizer of the second part of the trip. Traveling over a bumpy dirt road–all of the country’s roads are poor–we reached Lake Manyara National Park and checked into the Lake Manyara Serena Lodge. Built by the Aga Khan in the mid-1990s, it is one of three of the outstanding chain’s hotels in which we stayed.

The main attraction of the beautiful area surrounding Lake Manyara is the large population of birds of many species. After observing the habits and the flight patterns of the colorful feathered creatures, we were on our way to the Serengeti National Park, where, while staying at another stellar property, Serengeti Serena Lodge, we spent two days roaming the Serengeti Plain. The greatest concentration of plains animals in Africa rove on this tract, home to an estimated two million wildebeests, half a million Thompson’s gazelles and a quarter of a million zebras, all being hunted by lions, leopards, cheetahs and hyenas.

Many of the game reserves in Kenya are enclosed with electric fences to keep the animals in and the poachers out. In Tanzania there are no barriers; the animals can move about freely and migrate at will.

On game drives we met other tourists in land cruisers wandering the area. Driver-guides used their wireless telephones to communicate with each other about specific sightings of animals. In one instance, we joined four other vehicles surrounding a group of ten lions lying in the morning sun and sleeping off their successful night hunting expeditions. They paid us no heed; one female raised her head, looked at us briefly and went back to sleep near her cubs.

The most spectacular happening at the Serengeti was the annual migration toward Masai Mara of herds of wildebeests joined by zebras. On the day after our arrival, there were thousands of animals suddenly pouring northward in large determined throngs. The wildebeest looks somewhat like our American buffalo, but it is smaller and its migration pattern is reminiscent of that of the buffalo in our Old West.

When some of the wildebeests stopped to drink at a watering hole, a crocodile slyly grabbed a young wildebeest and pulled it under the water while the herd, except for the mother, fled in panic. For a long time she stood on the shore looking forlornly for her baby.

Our next excursion was to the Olduvai Gorge, site of the archeological excavations where Mary Leakey discovered the oldest human remains.

After a drive on a climbing road, we reached the stunning Ngorongoro Serena Lodge overlooking the 102-square-mile Ngorongoro Crater, which is home to so many animals that it has been compared to Noah’s ark or the Garden of Eden. From the rim we drove down into the flat plain at the bottom of the extinct volcano to view beautiful flocks of pink flamingoes descending on Lake Magdi in the middle of the crater, as well as every other species of animal, which we had come upon before.

My two thrilling weeks in Africa ended with a long ride back to Nairobi to catch the flight home. During the time I spent in Kenya and Tanzania, I met visitors from many parts of the world, all of whom were enthusiastic about having vacationed in East Africa. Many of them offered that the safari was one of their most treasured travel adventures. I, too, was satisfied. In hindsight I might have opted to spend just one rather than two weeks animal watching. But the choice would have been difficult. Kenya and Tanzania are both remarkable places.

African Travel, Inc., The Safari Building, 1100 E. Broadway, Glendale, CA 92105. Tel. 800-507-7893. www.africantravelinc.com

The Norfolk Hotel, PO Box 58581 00200-Nairobi. Tel. +254-(020)-216940, USA: 2027 South Orange Ave., Sarasota FL 34239, Tel. +1 941 951 1155, www.lonrhohotels.com/norfolk/introduction.html

The Aberdare Country Club, PO Box 58581 00200-Nairobi. Tel. +254-(020)-216940, USA: 2027 South Orange Ave., Sarasota FL 34239, Tel. +1 941 951 1155, www.lonrhohotels.com/aberdares/introduction.html

The Ark Lodge, PO Box 58581 00200-Nairobi. Tel. +254-(020)-216940, USA: 2027 South Orange Ave., Sarasota FL 34239, Tel. +1 941 951 1155, www.lonrhohotels.com/ark/introduction.html

Mt. Kenya and the Aberdares, Kenya. Fax. 61-2-9999-4332. www.laikipia.org/mt-kenya-safari-club.htm

Sweetwaters Tented Camp, PO Box 58581 00200-Nairobi. Tel. +254-(020)-216940, USA: 2027 South Orange Ave., Sarasota FL 34239, Tel. +1 941 951 1155, www.lonrhohotels.com/sweetwaters/introduction.html

Mara Safari Club, PO Box 58581 00200-Nairobi. Tel. +254-(020)-216940, USA: 2027 South Orange Ave., Sarasota FL 34239, Tel. +1 941 951 1155, www.lonrhohotels.com/mara/introduction.html

Lake Manyara Serena Lodge, Arusha International Conference Centre (AICC), 6th Floor, Ngorongoro Wing, P.O. Box 2551, Arusha, Tanzania. Tel. (255-27-2) 504158, (255-27-2) 504153, www.serenahotels.com/tanzania/lakemanyara/home.htm

Serengeti Serena Lodge, Arusha International Conference Centre (AICC), 6th Floor, Ngorongoro Wing, P.O. Box 2551, Arusha, Tanzania. Tel. (255-27-2) 504158, (255-27-2) 504153, www.serenahotels.com/tanzania/serengeti/home.htm

Ngorongoro Serena Lodge, Arusha International Conference Centre (AICC), 6th Floor, Ngorongoro Wing, P.O. Box 2551, Arusha, Tanzania. Tel. (255-27-2) 504158, (255-27-2) 504153, www.serenahotels.com/tanzania/ngorongoro/home.htm

Spring 2000