Author Topic: Aerial Dag's trip to Tanzania & Rwanda  (Read 2206 times)

Offline Aerial Dag

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Aerial Dag's trip to Tanzania & Rwanda
« on: February 11, 2017, 02:28:02 PM »
As I sit here in a tent in the middle of the Serengeti in Tanzania I realize that if I don't start a trip report now I'll probably never get around to making one. I'm not sure if people will find this useful since I didn't book anything with points other than the flights but there seemed to be a bit of interest in my non-points stay at Huvafen Fushi in the Maldives. Well anyway, let's take a step back.

6 weeks ago
My wife and I came to the sad realization that despite taking several trips in the Fall, for the first time in about 5 years we didn't have a single trip planned or in the works. With Zika going strong in many warm places we decided to dust off our Africa trip research and take a second look at that idea. We quickly realized that this was likely the last time for us take such a trip before future "little obligations" entered our life.

We contacted two travel agencies and quickly got to work. Booking trips in Africa is typically a long, slow ordeal but since my wife had basically done all her research about places to stay and areas to visit in advance, we fed the agencies this information and asked them to come up with itineraries. There was some back and forth about the itinerary but we were pretty set in things we wanted. After playing the agencies against each other to bring the price down, we pushed them to move as quickly as possible and had a trip booked and paid for in about 10 days. We made a few people uncomfortable doing it so quickly but we're from NYC and I guess they smelled a quick sale. We probably broke some sort of record.

Next were our flights. I had enough of each UR, AA, TU, and MR for J. I was hoping to take advantage of the AA Qatar multi region allowance for Africa but unfortunately I couldn't find any availability so close to my flight time. In fact, I couldn't find much business class availability anywhere. I was getting pretty desperate (I had even previously put a hold on economy just so the travel agency felt comfortable I had at least some flight reserved). Thankfully a few days after searching, some new availability opened up and I booked EWR-FRA-ADD-JRO for the way to Africa and KGL-BRU-MUC-EWR for the way home. Not the ideal flight route but it got us there in J so I was happy enough.

Deutschland
We took a 6pm Lufthansa flight to FRA and sat downstairs in a 2-2-2- config. We tried to sleep as much as possible so I can't really comment on the flight more than to say that the beds were fine, though they make for an awkward configuration if you don't know your neighbor. When I have a better wifi connection I'll upload pictures. We arrived in Frankfurt at around 7am pretty tired despite our sleeping attempts. We had a 14 hour stop over in Frankfurt so we decided to make the best of it and joined a walking tour which started at 10:30am. We got to the city, grabbed some coffee and met up with the group. The tour is run by a married American couple who have been living in Frankfurt for a number of years. It was interesting and touched on important parts of the city but does involve two church visits. Overall there just isn't that much to see so despite being over 2 hours, it was one of the worst walking tours we've been on. Also it cost 14 euro a person.

After the tour we visited the Frankfurt holocaust memorial site at the Jewish cemetery. I found the memorial to be simple yet effective. From afar you see black stones stuck in the wall surrounding the Jewish cemetery but as you get closer you realize that each stone actually has the name and information of every Jew from Frankfurt that died in the Holocaust.
We then went inside their Jewish museum which gives a history of the Jewish population of Frankfurt. The museum was new, heavily staffed but very informative. I love learning about how Jews lived in these Western countries back in the day and the museum did a great job explaining it.

After the museum we still had several hours to spare so we headed back to the airport. We went through security and went to the Lufthansa lounge. Our next flight on Ethiopian Airways wasn't for a while so we went to the sleeping room and took a 2 hour nap. The beds in the lounge were super comfortable and since they provide pillows and blankets I could have stayed the whole night. But alas, our flight was boarding so we quickly made our way to our plane and boarded the Dreamliner. Ethiopian was running a 2-3-2 config which surprised me. My wife and I sat in the middle section but the seat next to us was empty. It was comfortable and we slept the entire way.

Almost there...
We arrived in ADD and immediately headed towards the lounge. It was super basic and reminded me of the lounge in Sri Lanka. They had a sleeping area which was nice but the place was lit up with tons of natural sunlight which was not so nice. After trying to sleep for an hour or two we eventually went to our next flight to JRO. I'll put up some pictures of this flight but it was only 1.5 hours so not much to report.

Tanzania
We finally arrived in JRO. The arrival terminal was very similar to small Caribbean countries where you are ushered to a small hut like location where you have to get your visa. Since we were in business we were first in line to get the visa. After handing the agent the form I was pretty surprised to hear him say that we had to pay $200 in cash to get our visa. At first I thought he was trying to play us but I confirmed it with others. Luckily I brought USD for tips so I had the money and paid him on the spot. I later learned that visas are $50/person except for Americans who are charged $100/person. Great. After that little setback, we met our driver who was to drive us to our first stop, the Arusha Coffee Lodge in Arusha.

For that, you'll have to wait for my next post!
FYI I'm going to break this TR down to 4 or 5 parts. The first part, an introduction. Second part will go through Lake Manyara, Ngorngoro Crater and Ndtutu. Third part will be Serengeti. Fourth part will be gorilla treking in Rwanda. Fifth part, if necessary, will be the conclusion and other info. Also, next post will start with actual pictures so stay tuned.

Offline moisheyb

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Re: Aerial Dag's trip to Tanzania & Rwanda
« Reply #1 on: February 11, 2017, 05:44:18 PM »
Hey do you have a breakdown on the costs of the trip ie cash and miles.

Can't wait for the rest!!

Offline Emkay

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Re: Aerial Dag's trip to Tanzania & Rwanda
« Reply #2 on: February 11, 2017, 07:37:10 PM »
Looking forward to that rest. A great migration trip is in the works so this is helpful.

Offline Dawie

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Re: Aerial Dag's trip to Tanzania & Rwanda
« Reply #3 on: February 12, 2017, 12:22:20 PM »
keep it going!

Offline sam28

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Re: Aerial Dag's trip to Tanzania & Rwanda
« Reply #4 on: February 12, 2017, 10:10:59 PM »
don't let us wait to long .

Offline Aerial Dag

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Re: Aerial Dag's trip to Tanzania & Rwanda
« Reply #5 on: February 13, 2017, 02:22:54 AM »
Just got back from a morning sunrise drive.
So I think the best way to tell this TR is through pictures but the internet in the bush is spotty at best. I'll be taking my flight to kgl in 2 days so hopefully I'll be able to find fast enough internet there.

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Re: Aerial Dag's trip to Tanzania & Rwanda
« Reply #6 on: February 13, 2017, 02:26:43 AM »
Just got back from a morning sunrise drive.
So I think the best way to tell this TR is through pictures but the internet in the bush is spotty at best. I'll be taking my flight to kgl in 2 days so hopefully I'll be able to find fast enough internet there.
Can't wait.

Offline Emkay

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Re: Aerial Dag's trip to Tanzania & Rwanda
« Reply #7 on: February 13, 2017, 03:28:38 AM »
Can't wait.
I'm afraid you likely don't have a choice.

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Re: Aerial Dag's trip to Tanzania & Rwanda
« Reply #8 on: February 13, 2017, 12:13:16 PM »
Wow super jealous. Waiting for the pics!

Offline 3yummyboys

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Re: Aerial Dag's trip to Tanzania & Rwanda
« Reply #9 on: February 13, 2017, 12:40:30 PM »
Looking forward!!

Offline Aerial Dag

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Aerial Dag's trip to Tanzania & Rwanda
« Reply #10 on: February 15, 2017, 02:52:13 PM »
Sorry for the delay, spent the day traveling to kgl and now I was just told we have a 4am wake up to the jungle.
Until I get the chance to continue here's a picture of 3 male lions, one using they other for shade.
It's just a cell phone pic here because they were so close. They came running towards our jeep looking back the entire time. Notice the sitting lion is still looking back in the direction from which they came. We couldn't figure out what they were running from, after all, what would cause three male young adult lions to run away in fear? But it did make for some excellent viewing

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Re: Aerial Dag's trip to Tanzania & Rwanda
« Reply #11 on: February 15, 2017, 04:10:57 PM »
Sorry for the delay, spent the day traveling to kgl and now I was just told we have a 4am wake up to the jungle.
Until I get the chance to continue here's a picture of 3 male lions, one using they other for shade.
It's just a cell phone pic here because they were so close. They came running towards our jeep looking back the entire time. Notice the sitting lion is still looking back in the direction from which they came. We couldn't figure out what they were running from, after all, what would cause three male young adult lions to run away in fear? But it did make for some excellent viewing

Someone is teasing us...

Offline E-MAN

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Re: Aerial Dag's trip to Tanzania & Rwanda
« Reply #12 on: February 15, 2017, 05:14:12 PM »
Can't wait for rest! Enjoy the rest of your trip

Offline Aerial Dag

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Re: Aerial Dag's trip to Tanzania & Rwanda
« Reply #13 on: February 20, 2017, 07:22:24 PM »
Ok thanks for your patience! I'm back so let's get started with the TR.

Some pics from my first post.


Awkward feet placement on Lufthansa


Showers at the FRA welcome lounge were super helpful before spending the day walking around town (as long as you can get over the uncomfortableness of being assigned a shower by a German woman).


Holocaust memorial in Frankfurt. A wall with thousands of odd black dots from afar...


Which upon closer inspection actually describes each and every Jewish person from Frankfurt killed in the holocaust (FYI you'll see the stark difference with the Rwandan genocide memorial in an upcoming post)


Sleeping room in FRA. Fresh blankets and pillows provided. Was super useful


Ethiopian Airlines dreamliner business class. 3 middle seats. Ughhh

Offline Aerial Dag

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Re: Aerial Dag's trip to Tanzania & Rwanda
« Reply #14 on: February 20, 2017, 08:18:22 PM »
FYI 99% of all the photos were taken by my wife so all photo compliments belong to her  :)
She used a Sony alpha 6000 and switched between a 35mm Zeiss and the 70-200mm Sony G Series telephoto lens, typically with a 2x teleconverter attached.

Ok so we arrived at Arusha Coffee Lodge which was meh but basically required since we couldn't get anywhere else before sundown and the travel agencies seem to prefer we travel during the day. The next morning we met our tour guide/driver for the next week, Mohamed. We quickly set out to our first animal spot: Lake Manyara.


Young baboons hitch rides on their moms. The youngest will ride underneath the mom while the older ones will ride on top of their moms.


Baboons with some antelopes. Notice the female in heat in the bottom left.


Classic African photo!


Baboons hanging out on a termite hill. There are just an untold number of termite hills throughout all the national parks. You'll often see animals hanging out on top of them, especially in the flat plans in certain areas in the Serengeti. They use the hills as lookout points to search for predators or prey.


Their ducks are better looking than our ducks.


We got super lucky to see this family of hippos out of the water in the middle of the day. Typically hippos stay in the water throughout the entire day and come out only at night to graze in the grass for food.


Don't remember the name of these birds...


Crowned Crane. Beautiful unique looking bird that you see pretty regularly


Giraffes! This was my wife's favorite animal. I loved watching them move at a distance. They sort of just flow across the savannah.


nom nom nom


First sighting of the Big Five Game. We find this guy eating solo deep in the forest.


I could watch monkeys all day. The way they interact is so human like. Well I guess that's why we spent a few days in Rwanda doing just that  ;)


African Blue Monkey. Kinda hard to spot since they blended in pretty well.


Ok so that was basically it for Lake Manyara. It was a great introduction to the animals. It definitely got us excited about what was to come but just didn't compare to any of the other parks.
On the way to the lake our guide had mentioned that there was a market for the Maasai tribe taking place that day that only occurred once a month. Since we were were on a private guided safari we took advantage of the flexibility and asked him to show us around the market.
First a bit about the Maasai people. They're a semi-nomadic tribe of hundreds of thousands of people in Tanzania and Kenya. They've been around the area for hundreds of years and some people claim they originally came from the Middle East. They perform circumcision on males at age  15 to about 20, depending on which cycle a male has been assigned to. During the actual circumcision the male must not even flinch while the process is occurring. Oh and they don't use any anesthesia. Unfortunately some still practice FGM though they do receive strong pressure to drop that custom. They are mostly cattle herders and don't use any electricity. There's lots more info about them but it could honestly be a post on its own.


Maasai people will wear distinct deep colored clothes (usually red) as seen in this photo.


A group of people drinking Banana Beer. I hesitated to try it because of fear of drinking their unfiltered water. I would not have wanted to get a stomach virus this early on in the trip.


The Maasai people believe they are direct descendants of one of three of God's sons, the shepherd. Therefore, all Maasai males carry a stick around with them. They also believe that all cattle belong to them, so if they come across a non Maasai person's cattle they don't believe it's stealing to take the cattle since they see it as simply reclaiming the cattle that belongs to them.


Since they only herd animals for livelihoods, they get everything else via trade, including their clothes.


Gotta love that color contrast!


Seen here are the Maasai sandals. If you would pick one up and turn it over you would quickly notice that it has tire tread marks. That's because all Maasai wear sandals made out of cut down motorbike tires. And it's not like they do it for recycling reasons, a good Maasai sandal will come from a brand new tire recently cut down to size.


After we left the market we drove past this sign on the road. Gotta love it.
« Last Edit: February 20, 2017, 08:21:28 PM by Aerial Dag »