Travel reviews by Mr DG from New Hampshire
Total number of trips
Lodges stayed in
My Nov/Dec 2022 trip
Tanzania between 30 Nov 2022 and 23 Dec 2022
This was our second trip organized by Expert Africa. The first was a short three-day outing in 2019 to Zanzibar planned as a side trip while we were in Kenya on a work trip. We chose Expert Africa to help us plan this longer two-week visit because we were so pleased with the quality of our trip to Zanzibar.
Needless to say, we are even more impressed by Expert Africa after this trip. Everything was outstanding: the advice that we received from Maruska during our planning of the trip, including the pros and cons of selecting either Botswana or Tanzania as our destination; the materials that we received - very detailed and helpful annotated itineraries, information to help us navigate Covid-related health requirements, a helpful guide to travelling in Tanzania; alternative choices of places to visit and camps for lodging; and high quality vendors for all of the services provided.
All five lodges/camps were located in beautiful places, were incredibly comfortable, provided outstanding service, and had plentiful, excellent, healthy food (we never left a meal wanting for more). And the guides that accompanied us in every place were very personable, likable, and knowledgeable people from whom we learned much about the countries and local flora and fauna. Finally, the ancillary activities - a visit to a local Maasai village and a long walk from our lodge to the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater - were interesting, informative, and fun, with the added benefit of providing exercise after long days of riding in safari vehicles.
We hope that we will make further trips to East Africa in the next few years before we lose the ability for long-distance travel (we are both in our 70s). One of our hopes is that we can take our two adult children and grandchild to see the incredible country-sides and wildlife in East Africa whenever we can make the schedules work for such a trip. We will definitely ask Expert Africa to help us plan any future trip whenever we are ready to do so.
We also would like to express our deep appreciation for the invaluable, outstanding assistance that Maruska Adye-Rowe provided to us during the planning of this trip. The choices that she provided for places to visit and stay and things to do, always giving us the final choice, and the vendors she selected made our incredible experience possible.
I am sure that you already know what it is like to work with Maruska. In addition to the summary feedback on Maruska's performance that the form requests below, we would like to provide a more detailed client's perspective on how easy, helpful, efficient, and effective she is to work with. I hope that you will not mind the detail of what follows:
- Maruska and I had 2 lengthy phone calls at the outset to discuss what our (my wife and I) objectives for our 10-day safari.
- Our first call focused on what we would like to see (wildlife in interesting places in either Botswana or Tanzania) and the types of places we would like to stay in (high-end luxury, middle-of-the range, etc.) She then sent us a lengthy email comparing safari options in Botswana and Tanzania and suggesting possible lodging options in each place.
- Based on this very helpful information, my wife and I chose Tanzania as our destination, with a focus on the Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengeti and selected a few of the alternative lodges that she suggested (one on the crater rim, the other in the Serengeti)
- We then scheduled a second lengthy call to flesh out the itinerary (she suggested adding a safari in Lake Manyara on the way to the crater and suggested two other places to stay before we arrived at the crater)
- Maruska was fun to speak with. I enjoyed our conversations. She was very informative and, most importantly to me, listened carefully to what we wanted, provided very helpful answers to my questions, and made very helpful suggestions
- We then exchanged many emails (I counted at least 13 sent by me) in which I posed many questions and asked for greater detail on: the places we would visit, the lodges where we would stay, the activities that we could do, the logistics of the travel, the best time to depart and return to Kenya, etc.
- Maruska was incredibly prompt with her replies to my emails which provided very thorough answers to my seemingly endless questions (one of my unfortunate characteristics)
- She also was very adaptive when I suggested something that she had not included in the itinerary. Here are two examples:
- I indicated that we would like to add a visit Olduvai Gorge as a side activity during our stay on the Ngorongoro Crater and she adjusted the itinerary so that we could do that without having to eliminate one of the other activities that we already had planned.
- When I realized that we would have 2 extra days in Kenya before we were scheduled to join the group that we were meeting there, I asked Maruska if she could help us plan a 2-day visit to one of the soda lakes that I had last visited more than 20 years ago. She consulted with colleagues who were Kenya experts and recommended 2 options for lakes to visit. Once I chose Lake Nakuru, she identified two alternative lodges in different locations and different price ranges. We had a wonderful experience viewing land-based and aquatic wildlife at the lake and loved the lodge that we selected from her options.
- Maruska also was very helpful in other important ways:
- providing helpful resources on how to obtain reliable health and travel insurance
- notifying me that Kenya Air had changed our flight time to Tanzania without notifying me, which required some adjustment to our itinerary
- helping me navigate the Covid-related health requirements to enter Tanzania
- helping me to navigate Expert Africa's web site when it would not let me log in or accept my deposit for the trip. I had to provide my credit card information to her over the phone
- preparing and sending the detailed annotated itinerary, including all of the helpful information on visas, health information, luggage weight limits on the internal flights, the need to avoid older USD notes, and arranging the 2 internal flights
In short, Maruska helped us plan a fabulous trip and was a pleasure to work with. As noted below, I would recommend her very highly to my friends and would be delighted to work with her again in planning future trips."
Arranged By Maruska AdyeRowe
"The Cliff - A Great Start to Our Trip"
Lodge not featured by Expert Africa
Ngare Sero Mountain Lodge
"Ngare Sero - A Very Lovely Place"
We loved the lodge itself and our room. The lodge is an old large farmhouse dating to the colonial era in Tanzania. It is a very interesting building, with lots of old photographs that explain its history.
Our "room" was very spacious, consisting of three rooms - a very large bedroom, a large "living" room, and a very large bathroom. All of the rooms contained antique furniture. Our bedroom opened onto a small veranda with beautiful views of the lush grounds and Mount Meru in the distance. Our floor also contained a very attractive sitting/living room with access to a larger veranda overlooking the grounds.
We were served dinner in a beautiful private dining room (other guests had their own private dining rooms). The food was plentiful and excellent. The service also was excellent.
We were served breakfast outdoors in a patio-like area with excellent views of the ground. The food again was plentiful and excellent. The service again was excellent.
We regretted not having the time to explore the grounds."
Lodge not featured by Expert Africa
Escarpment Luxury Lodge
"Escarpment Luxury Lodge - Beautiful Views"
Our lodging was the most luxurious of any place that we stayed during our three-week trip. It was a "tented chalet", which felt more like a chalet than a tent. It was very spacious with a large sitting area, large bed, lots of storage space, a spacious bathroom area, a very nice shower, a luxurious bath tub with a view outside, a deck with an incredible view of Lake Manyara and nearby cliffs. It was the only place that we stayed with air conditioning. We felt guilty using it, but it helped us sleep well in the heat.
The common area also was very nice - very spacious with a comfortable living-room type area with a fireplace where we had drinks before dinner and a spacious dining area. The tables were well spaced so that guests were well spread out.
The food selection and quality at both dinner and breakfast were excellent. The food choices also were healthy. The staff were very professional and friendly and the service was attentive.
Our only complaint was that there was a very large party at dinner and a band playing, with people dancing. We realized that this was the holiday season but we still found it distracting."
Lake Manyara Treetop Walkway
"Walking Among Treetops - Lake Manyara Treetop Walkway"
11 Dec 2022 • All-day excursion
The guide was very knowledgeable and helpful in pointing out the different species of trees, birds, and butterflies that we saw. He also explained the process of constructing the walkway, which I found fascinating.
I would do this again if provided the opportunity.
Lake Manyara Safari
"Lake Manyara Safari - An Interesting Small Park"
11 Dec 2022 • All-day excursion
While we saw a more limited range of wildlife here than during our safaris in the Maasai Mara, Ngorongoro Crater, or the Serengeti, we greatly enjoyed observing the species that we saw. We spent a lot of time closely observing three species. We followed a large family of elephants for some time. The family included large adults, "teenagers", and very young elephants. At times, the elephants were so close to our vehicle (they were very close to the road) that I could have touched them if I had reached my arm through the vehicle's window. It was fun to follow them watching them eat leaves on trees and interacting with each other.
We also spent a lot of time following a large troop of baboons, something that we probably would not have done in other parks. The troop included a wide age-range, including babies on their mother's backs, "teens", and male and female adults. They were very entertaining to watch - the teens climbing trees and swinging on branches, the females grooming the males, the babies cavorting.
We also watched a variety of monkeys - vervet and blue - playing in trees and drinking from a stream. They were fun to watch.
We also saw lions, zebras, giraffes, and a variety of antelope species, including impala, bush buck, and dik-dik.
We enjoyed the day very much - it was more "relaxed" game viewing than I expected, as we took lots of time to just observe wildlife "doing their thing".
"Entamanu Ngorongoro- a fabulous place to stay"
The location definitely sets the tone for the whole experience. The camp is located on the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater at the end of a long, rough road. As a result, it has an isolated feeling to it. The views over the rim of the crater, with the mountains on the far side of the crater, are spectacular, especially at sunrise. Our tent was sited such that you felt that you were in your private wilderness, with only views over the crater. This feeling of being in your own wilderness was reinforced one morning when a giraffe walked in front of our tent, not more than 20 to 30 meters away from us. How awesome!
The tent itself was spacious, tastefully furnished, and very comfortable. A portable gas heater and hot water bottles placed between the sheets (amazingly, they were still warm in the morning) were very welcome as it became quite chilly at night due to the 7,500 feet elevation of the crater. Even though the Expert Africa web site indicated that the crater rim would be cold at night, we were surprised by how cold we felt, especially because it already was winter when we left home.
The lounge and dining areas also were comfortably furnished - we especially liked the local art displayed throughout - with fireplaces in each room. The lounge/living room was very inviting with comfortable couches, the art on the walls, and the warmth emanating from the fireplace.
The tables in the dining area were comfortably spaced, reflecting the challenges created by Covid. The food was excellent at all of our meals - a selection of very interesting, healthy salads at lunch and a choice of excellent entrees at dinner. I was especially pleased that the chef prepared tasty options - including bread products - to accommodate my need for a gluten-free diet.
Staff throughout the camp - the wait staff at dinner, the people assigned to clean our tent, and the security guards - all went out of their way to make us feel welcome. The manager set the tone by greeting us every morning as we set off on our activity and greeting us when we returned, He also joined us for a few minutes every night as we sat in the lounge with a pre-dinner drink.
Finally, the activities offered in addition to the game drives were excellent. We went on a 12 kilometer round trip walk to the crater rim - accompanied by a Maasai guide and an armed park ranger - which provided an opportunity for exercise and to see the local flora and the view over the crater. An added bonus during the walk was a chance encounter with three Maasai men who were returning a large group of cattle to their village and four giraffes who walked within 60 to 70 meters of us. We also took a 6 kilometer walk one-way (we drove back in a safari vehicle) to a local Maasai village where relatives of the camp's Maasai guide lived. We greatly enjoyed learning about the Maasai culture and their traditions. Their welcoming dance was fun to watch.
The Maasia guide - Kiseka - was especially helpful during both of our walks with him. He brought a walking stick for my wife, who was unaccustomed to walking on uneven terrain, pointed out very interesting facts about many of the plants that we saw, explained aspects of the Maasai culture, and described how he had become a guide. We greatly enjoyed talking with him."
Maasai Village Visit
"Maasai Village Visit - A great cultural experience"
12 Dec 2022 • Afternoon excursion
We enjoyed the visit for three reasons. First, the walk provided a welcome opportunity to get some exercise after being sedentary for many days. The walk was 6 kilometers over moderately difficult rolling, interesting terrain - scrub brush, Acacia trees, and grassland with interesting views of other Maasai villages and mountains in the background. Plus, the weather was beautiful - sunny, becoming overcast with interesting cloud formations, and a bit cool. Despite the moderately difficult terrain, it was a relatively easy walk for 2 people in their 70s walking at an easy pace:). We were accompanied by a Maasai guide - Kiseka - and an armed park ranger since the area was open to wildlife.
Kiseka, our Maasai guide, was the second reason for the pleasant experience. Kiseka is a very pleasant man with a wide range of knowledge. He told us that he grew up in a local Maasai village and had become a guide when the owner of the Entamanu camp, asked the local Maasai villages to nominate someone to become a guide. The villages selected him. During the walk he discussed aspects of Maasai culture, such as the prohibition on widows remarrying and how they earned their livelihoods. He also described the different types of plant life that we encountered on the trail.
Finally, the village itself and its residents was very interesting. The village was comprised of approximately 20 oval-like structures made of mud and cow-dung "plastered" on branches and twigs surrounded by fencing made from Acacia bushes. The structures were not tall enough to permit a full-grown person to stand upright.
The residents also were very interesting. The men and women were dressed in very colorful clothing, mostly various shades of red and checks, and the women wore lots of beautiful beadwork, large collar-like necklaces and earrings. Together, they welcomed us with a traditional dance. First, they moved toward us and then away from us. Then the men gathered in a semi-circle and, one a time, leaped into the air from a standing position. The height they reached was very impressive. Then the women, typically in pairs, also jumped straight up from a standing position. They also reached impressive heights, though not as high as the men.
The men then demonstrated how they made fires in the bush without using matches by rubbing a stick in a "crotch" carved into another stick held over a knife. When a spark was created, they placed the knife onto dry grass and blew to ignite the spark.
Finally, they took us into a small corral made of acacia bushes where the women had displayed on tables a wide variety of beadwork - collar-like necklaces, earrings, coasters, Christmas-tree ornaments, small containers, animal figures, etc. that they had made. This was the only "awkward" moment during the visit. While it was clear that we did not have to purchase anything - Kiseka asked us if we would be willing to look at the beadwork that the women had made - we thought that it would have been rude not to purchase anything. We asked the women the cost of various items and it became clear very quickly that their asking price was much greater than we could have paid elsewhere. Had I been in a Maasai market in a city, such as Nairobi, Kenya, I would have bargained until we reached a mutually agreeable price, which I have done many times on previous trips to East Africa. I did not feel comfortable doing this with the village women, so we paid their asking price. In the end, I rationalized this in two ways - it was the "price" for the fun experience that they provided to us and the women "needed" the money more than we did. In hindsight, I should have anticipated this happening and discussed expectations with Kiseka before we reached the village, especially whether bargaining was acceptable behavior.
Despite this one "awkward" moment, the visit to the Maasai village was a very rewarding experience. We highly recommend it.
Safari in Ngorongoro Crater
"Awesome Safari in Ngorongoro Crater "
13 Dec 2022 • All-day excursion
We stayed at Entamanu Ngorongoro camp located on the crater rim which provided beautiful views of the crater, especially at sunrise. We arrived on the crater floor at 6:30am, well before many other safari vehicles arrived. During the almost 12 hours that we spent there, we visited the many different ecosystems on the crater floor - the forest, the grasslands in the savannah, Lake Magadi (a soda (salt) lake), fresh water streams, swamps, and rocky outcroppings. Different types of animals seemed to cluster in these ecosystems - elephants in the forest, hippos in the swamps, the various ungulates - wildebeests, buffaloes, zebras, the two different types of gazelles - and lions in the grasslands, and flamingos and pelicans in the soda lake.
It was amazing to see such a variety of wildlife in one place. We saw incredible numbers of buffalo, wildebeests, zebras (all of these probably in the thousands), Thompson's and Grant's gazelles, hippos, smaller numbers of warthogs, spotted hyena, lions, elephants, and jackals, and just one eland and black rhino.
We were just as amazed by the variety and abundance of bird life - the aquatic birds such as lesser flamingos, pelicans, African spoonbill, Egyptian geese, ibises - and the land birds - ostrich, Kori bustard, grey crowned crane, secretary bird, guinea fowl.
A list of the favorite viewing experiences during the day includes:
- watching the wildebeest, with zebra in their midst, run, cavort, and chase each other
- observing a very large group of hippos of all sizes lying and yawning in a pool in a swampy area, a few of which had an ibis sitting on their back
- watching flamingos and pelicans search for food in the soda lake
- watching elephants devouring leaves on the acacia trees in the forest
- watching ibises and storks searching for food in the pool close to where we ate breakfast
- eating lunch on a hill overlooking the grasslands with a large group of buffalo below us
Two other things bear mentioning. First, the views of the crater walls (approximately 600 meters tall) framing the crater floor provided an amazing backdrop for game viewing. This was such a different perspective from the other parks that we visited on this trip - Maasai Mara, Samburu, and Serengeti. Second, having a guide who: is very familiar with the area, knows where to find different types of wildlife and how to avoid the crowds of other safari vehicles; has the patience to sit for extended periods of time while we observed wildlife "doing their thing"; and who graciously stopped every time I wanted to take a photograph, is critical to having a memorable experience. Rowland, our private guide, was such a guide.
Olduvai Gorge visit
"Olduvai Gorge - A Must-See Experience"
14 Dec 2022 • All-day excursion
Our visit to the gorge itself involved four different activities. The first involved an excellent lecture from a museum guide as we sat in a small amphitheater overlooking the impressive gorge. We were the only visitors that morning, so we were fortunate to have the sole attention of the guide. He described the geology and layout of the gorge, the history of the explorations made over time in the gorge, the types of stone tools that were excavated, and the chronology of the discovery of the different types of hominins unearthed in the gorge. Much attention was paid to the contributions of Louis and Mary Leakey during the various excavations they made at the gorge for more than 40 years. Their contributions included discovering the first simple stone tools made by humans and fossils of the earliest human ancestors, as well as promoting the theory that humans originated in Africa.
A tour of the modern museum was our second activity. It is definitely worth a visit. It is organized into a number of well-lit rooms with interesting, well-explained exhibits, including: many of the stone tools that were discovered in the gorge; reproductions of the fragments of the skulls and skeletons of the various hominin species excavated (the originals are in a museum in Dar es Salaam); bones of ancient animals; reproductions of two famous hominin skeletons found elsewhere in East Africa; and casts of the earliest hominin footprints in the world showing individuals walking on two-feet that were discovered at nearby Laetoli.
Our third activity was a drive into the gorge to see the sites where many of the discoveries were made. There is a small exhibit and a plaque embedded in the place where, in 1959, Mary Leakey found part of a jaw bone with two teeth and a skull a few days later of an early hominin species.
We also visited the nearby Mary Leakey Living Museum that consists of a set of the original buildings that Mary Leakey used after she returned to do further excavations of the gorge. The buildings included her living quarters, a kitchen, a storeroom containing filing boxes, a windmill and a large number of batteries used to generate electricity, and her old Land Rover. We were amazed at the simplicity of the living quarters - a bed and a few tables - and marveled that she could have functioned so well for all those years in such sparse living quarters in a very hot climate.
An added bonus to our visit was a short drive out into a desert-like area of the savannah to a place known as the Shifting Sands. The Shifting Sands is a crescent-shaped dune, maybe 10 meters in height, that consists of highly magnetized volcanic ash with much darker texture than the surrounding soil. The ash feels very gritty and dense to the touch. Because the ash is highly magnetized, the particles stick together rather than being blown away by the wind. The most amazing thing is that the entire dune moves slowly each year in strong winds. Stone markings have been placed at different points in the area to indicate the distance - approximately 17 meters - that the dune has moved each year.
Finally, we ate a very pleasant brunch on a grassy hilltop overlooking the Shifting Sands and the savannah. The vista was impressive because there was nothing else to see for what seemed many miles.
Crater Rim Walk
"A fun walk to the rim overlooking Ngorongoro Crater"
14 Dec 2022 • All-day excursion
The terrain was interesting, with dense areas of trees at the higher elevations, smaller acacia bushes/trees and some more open space in the flatter areas, and much less dense areas of trees closer to the rim. On the descent, we met three Maasai herders returning to their village with a large number of cattle whose exposed ribs showed the lingering effects of the drought that had existed in the area.
During the walk, Kiseka described the plants and trees that we saw as well as continuing his discussion of Maasai culture that we began during our walk together to the Maasai village two days prior.
The views over the crater rim were impressive, as we could see in panorama the entire floor of the crater, including the relatively large soda lake, the forest area on the far right of the crater (without a compass, I couldn't tell directions), and the savannah in-between, all surrounded by 600-meter walls.
On our return trip, we saw four large giraffes in the flat open area. Two of them walked within 60 to 70 meters of us. They seemed just as curious about us as we did about them.
I highly recommend this walk, both for the exercise value and to experience the varied terrain, flora, and fauna from a different perspective.
Alex Walker's Serian Serengeti
"We Loved Alex Walker's Serian Serengeti Kusin"
We were initially disappointed by this because we were looking forward to experiencing what it would feel like to be in a very remote area after having spent days in Maasai Mara and the Ngorongoro Crater that, while very enjoyable, could not be described as remote.
Our disappointment at shifting camps was very short-lived. We loved everything about the Kusini camp. It felt very remote to us. It is small camp - only six tents - located at the end of a long grassy road tucked under very large acacia trees. During our four-day stay, we saw only two other safari vehicles during our game drives. Thanks very much to Entamanu Ngorongoro staff for making all of the logistical changes and to Expert Africa's Lyndsey for reassuring us, in Maruska's absence, that we would enjoy the Alex Walker Kusini camp.
We had specifically chosen to stay at one of Alex Walker's two southern mobile camps partly based on Expert Africa's description of the camps on its web site as having "an unfussy bush experience". We wanted to see what this would feel like after staying in camps with more amenities.
We definitely enjoyed the experience very much. Our tent was simply furnished but very comfortable - a comfortable queen size wrought-iron bed, a writing table and chair, and bedside tables with lamps and charging stations for phone and camera batteries. We quickly got used to the lack of running water in the sink - staff provided a large bucket of cold water and a jug of very hot water early each morning. We also enjoyed the bucket showers - we told staff when we wanted to take showers and they poured hot water into a bucket at the back of the tent. We then pulled two levers - one to start the shower, the other to turn it off - attached to a shower head. I like very hot showers and this worked very well. The amount of water was sufficient for two showers as long as we told the staff that both of us wanted to shower. It is amazing how quickly you can do without things that you consider an essential part of everyday life.
The camp's common areas, though also simply furnished, also are very comfortable. The main tent is divided into two sections - a large round dinner table and a lounge or living-room area furnished with comfortable couches and rugs and various guide books on flora and fauna. We also greatly appreciated the lack of wifi and cell phone service for guests. This definitely contributed to a feeling of "getting away from it all".
Two other aspects of the camp are notable. First, the food was excellent at every meal. I need to eat a gluten-free diet and the chef accommodated this without sacrificing the quality or creativity of the food. The meals at lunch and dinner were very creative, well-prepared, and very "tasty". We had very interesting salads or soups, varied entrees, and simple, but interesting desserts. He also baked gluten-free bread, biscuits, or muffins for each meal. The food also was well-served by staff.
We ate "picnic" breakfasts every day during our game drives. These breakfasts also were excellent, with great variety - cereal, fruit, breakfast meats (bacon, sausages), egg frittatas or quiches, muffins, biscuits, or toast (always with gluten-free options) - and with more food than two of us could eat. We were so impressed that the chef could prepare all of this fresh food by the time we left the camp at 6am for our game drives.
Second, all of the staff were extremely friendly, gracious, and eager to respond to any requests that we had. We were the only guests during our stay at the camp, so we had the undivided attention of staff. We had many interesting conversations with the camp manager, who asked us to call him by his nickname "Six".
While the camp as a place to stay was excellent, the game drives and our guide may have been even better. We left for our morning drives every day at 6am and returned to the camp around noon. Being out for 6 or so hours eliminated the need to move on quickly from each wildlife "sighting" to make sure that we saw as much wildlife as possible. Instead, it provided an opportunity for us to take time to linger and watch the animals "doing their thing". For example, we: followed a family of cheetahs - mother and her "teen" offspring - slowly searching for their next meal for an extended period of time; watched, at a respectful distance, another group of cheetahs track and kill a gazelle; observed a group of lions taking turns eating a wildebeest (some were napping or resting after satisfying themselves) surrounded by jackals and vultures waiting their turn to pick on the bones; watched wildebeests running and cavorting with each other.
We also went on afternoon game drives at 4pm, typically returning between 6 and 7pm.
The game in the area was very plentiful. The short rains had just begun in the past few days and wildebeests and zebras began arriving in large numbers every day that we were there. We saw long lines of wildebeests and zebras that stretched as far as we could see. It was quite a sight. Jeremiah, our guide, indicated that these long lines meant that the wildebeest/zebra migration was just beginning to arrive in the area. Jeremiah estimated that there might have been close to a million and a half wildebeests in the area by the end of our stay.
We also saw many lions, cheetahs, and hyenas.
We also enjoyed the diverse scenery of this part of the Serengeti, especially the vast short-grass savannah that seemed to stretch forever. We could see the mountains that framed the Ngorongoro Crater area far to the north. The area also had a number of rocky outcroppings, lots of acacia trees and shorter bushes, as well as some denser areas of forest.
Our guide was beyond excellent. The camp used an interesting system for game drives. First, they assigned a safari vehicle to each tent so that we had the same vehicle and guide each day. Second, each vehicle had a guide and a spotter. We wondered, at first, whether this was necessary but quickly learned that it was very helpful as the spotter often saw animals in the distance that the driver might have missed and they typically collaborated in deciding where to go.
Our guide, Jeremiah, was very personable and incredibly knowledgeable about the wildlife and fauna. He was very responsive to our interests. He asked us when he picked us up at the airstrip what we hoped to see during our stay and asked the same question before each drive. He then organized the game drive based on our answer.
We greatly enjoyed his company and learned a lot about animal behavior from him. For example, we learned how to estimate the age of a lion and how a male lion learns when a female lion is in heat.
We also appreciated that Jeremiah was very respectful of the wildlife that we observed. For example, when we followed cheetahs and lions to see whether they succeeded in killing an animal, he stayed at a respectful distance to avoid interfering in, or affecting, the outcome of the predators' search for food.
Jeremiah also is an accomplished photographer. He showed us some of his photographs, which were much more interesting than most of mine. He also showed me how to upload photos from my SLR camera to my mobile phone, which I greatly appreciated. Lonyoke, our Maasai spotter, was very attentive to our needs and very helpful to us in many ways.
Two final notes. First, as noted above, the short rains had just begun while we were there. On three of the four days, we heard deep rolling thunder that began shortly after 3pm while we were relaxing in our tent. This was followed by incredibly heavy rain for 30 minutes or so, ending in time for our afternoon game drive. It was fun to listen to the deep thunder and the deluge while we stayed dry in our tent. We also were entertained each evening by incredible patterns of lightning in the distance as we sat around the campfire with our pre-dinner drinks and snacks.
Second, we would like to thank Alex Walker for contacting Expert Africa to recommend that we shift camps so that we would have a more enjoyable experience. While this may not have cost him revenue, as we were just moving from one of his camps to another, it indicates a concern for the quality of his "product" and respect for his guests, which seems refreshing these days. We appreciated this gesture very much.
Based on our experience, we would definitely stay again at another Alex Walker camp. In fact, we have tossed the idea around of trying to stay at one of his mobile camps in the northern Serengeti (the same camps that migrate to the south to follow the wildebeest migration) during the earlier phase of the wildebeest migration."
The food at lunch and dinner was excellent - all of the menu options were appealing and our selections were healthy and tasty. I especially appreciated that the menus included fish entrees. The tables were well spaced throughout the dining area. Staff were very professional, friendly, and helpful. The facility had a very spacious, comfortable bar/living area. We also noticed that the lodge had a very nice swimming pool which we did not have time to use.
We came to Lake Nakuru primarily to see the bird life. I had visited the lake more than 20 years earlier on one of my first visits to Kenya for work and remembered being impressed by the number and variety of birds.
While our pre-trip research indicated that ecological changes in the lake had reduced the flamingo population, we were not disappointed. Maruska, our incredibly helpful trip planner at Expert Africa, arranged for us to do an ornithological safari on the second day of our visit. Cliff staff took us onto the lake in a pontoon boat for more than two hours early in the morning. We saw many different types of birds - pelicans, flamingos, cormorants, eagles - many of them very close-up. We even saw hippos swimming in the lake. The guides on the boat, especially Mary, were very knowledgeable about bird life which enriched our experience, as did the breakfast that we ate on the boat.
We also enjoyed the drive from Nairobi to the lake. Our guide chose the scenic route which overlooked the Rift Valley for quite a while, providing us very interesting views.
The game drive that we did on the first afternoon and then again on our way out of the park on our return to Nairobi was a huge bonus. We saw the big five, the only time that we saw all five in one place during our safaris in six different national parks in Kenya and Tanzania. We saw more than nine rhinos. Our guide also drove along the lake front so that we could observe the bird life close to the shore.
Finally, our private guide Peter was excellent. We enjoyed his company very much for a few reasons. First, he was very knowledgeable about the flora and fauna in the park and knew where we were most likely to see the land-based wildlife that we were most interested in - lion, leopard, elephant, and rhino.
Second, Peter had wide-ranging interests and was a good conversationalist. During our almost 8-hour round-trip drive from Nairobi and back we had a lively conversation about life in the U.S. and Kenya, the history of the places that we passed along the road, and other topics.
While we enjoyed the drive to Lake Nakuru, it seems important to point out that the traffic on the scenic route was very heavy, resulting in a longer-than-expected travel time to Lake Nakuru. The road is used heavily by large lorries transporting goods from Nairobi toward Uganda. The fact that schools were on vacation that week - we saw many families with children on the road - also may have contributed to the traffic congestion."