Click on this link for some video highlights of the trip:
Click on this link for some video highlights of the trip:
Another very long day today, we are driving from Maasai Mara to Lake Nakuru, a trip of about six hours, and then going straight into a two-hour game drive at Lake Nakuru. The first hour was very uncomfortable travelling at speed along deeply rutted roads and we started to wonder whether we should have taken the flying option that half the group took. Fortunately after one hour the road changed to bitumen and from that point onwards the trip was great!
We passed through numerous small towns and villages , all with a common feel.
Then when we entered Lake Nakuru National Park, for a whole new range of animal piccies …
This gorgeous Ugandan giraffe
Rhinos – we actually saw one of the very rare black rhinos at a considerable distance …
and the white rhinos which we saw from very close up. Interesting fact – the white rhinos are not white! One theory is that the name is a corruption of the Dutch word “wijd” or “wide” , which describes its mouth, which as you can see from the photo is “wide”. The black rhino’s mouth is much more pointed. There are also other theories like the fact that they roll in white bird droppings which made them appear white! Also some of their horns are a lighter colour. I hope I have cleared that up for you 🙂
Flamingoes – this lake is famous for its flamingoes but because it is the dry season there are a lot less than normal.
We saw two species of monkey – don’t ask me what sort they were …
a waterfall …
and when we got to our hotel just before sunset they drove us up to a lookout for sunset cocktails … lovely!
They had a long drop toilet available complete with armed guards to ensure our accuracy.
One final lovely game camp to stay in – the Lion Hill Lodge
Finally it was time to go and we set off for the local airstrip. We left in two small planes, one for us and one for our bags. Ros met the pilot in charge of the bags who was a woman – good to see in a country like Kenya.
We arrived a little early, before the aircraft arrived so the local monkeys decided to put on show for us. One of them jumped up onto one of the Landcruisers, through the pop top, grabbed a yoghurt and took off at high speed and shot up a tree. The rest of the clan were right onto it and tried to grab it from him but he was having none of it so they ended up just licking up the scraps that he spelled on the ground – so funny! Then another one jumped into another car and opened a woman’s bag and stole her orange!
We flew direct to Nairobi airport, back through the cargo shed and into a tent, otherwise known as the baggage collection area, as they are still dealing with the fallout from the fire that destroyed a large part of the airport.
We said goodbye to the rest of the group at this stage as they were continuing on to Jordan. We had a l-o-n-g trip ahead of us, flying to Dubai with a four-hour connection to Sydney.
Arrived in Sydney just after 10pm which is a great time to arrive – no other flights in the customs hall and little traffic on the roads. Home to the island by midnight.
What a great time we have had – thank you Captains Choice! The staff have all been wonderful and very proactive – they could not have been better!
We hope you have all enjoyed our little chronicle.
Philip and Ros
Had a few hours in the morning before heading off to the Maasai Mara, so I thought I would change some money into US dollars. Not as simple as it might sound … the hotel directed me to the bank but said that I would have to withdraw the money from an ATM in Zanzibar Shillings and take it to the bank to change to US dollars. The ATMs here are in a locked room with an armed security guard on duty outside. Done. Went to the bank when it opened at 8.30 and joined the queue which did not move for 10 minutes as the staff wandered in about 8.45, then a staff member appeared behind me and beckoned me over. When I told him that I wanted to change Shillings to US Dollars he said I would need to visit a money changer who was located outside the building, to the left, next building. As I was leaving a tourist in the queue advised me that I should never try to change money at the bank and that I should visit the Eagle Bureau De Change to the right outside the bank and then right at the first intersection. I tried the bank’s instructions first, without success, then decided to try the tourist’s suggestion, without success, then quite by accident I found a tiny sign, followed two blocks later by another equally small one – can you see them? The last photo is the Eagle Bureau de Change, second door on the left. It was actually directly behind the bank on the next block, so I guess both sets of directions were technically correct.
This is going to be a long day, flying to Nairobi before connecting to another charter flight to the Maasai Mara. An added complication is that Nairobi Airport had a major fire recently which destroyed the arrivals area so we were expecting the worst … as it turned out they had turned one of the cargo sheds into a temporary domestic departure terminal and it seemed to work just fine. Fortunately the temperatures have been lovely – it has not been fiercely hot anywhere. A little unexpected surprise was the offer to join the flight crew in the cockpit for the first 20 minutes of the flight and see Mt Kilimanjaro from the pilots’ perspective which was a buzz. Unfortunately Kilimanjaro was almost completely wreathed in cloud so not as spectacular as I had hoped.
We were met at the Maasai Mara airport by the representative from the game lodge and a porter wearing what every self-respecting Masai baggage handler wears. Note to Greg – I can see you in this outfit 🙂
At this point I should point out that “Masai” is the name of the tribe and “Maasai” is the language they speak and also seems to be used more frequently for the name of this place. I would hate you to think I was spelling them incorrectly! A thirty- minute drive to our Game Lodge which is stunning, and walk down to our tent – glamping at its best.
Couldn’t help but fall in love with the little Dik-Diks running around the gardens – this is the world’s smallest species of antelope and only about 300m tall. How cute is that???
Welcome drinks around a bonfire just after sunset, followed by dinner and off to bed. We have been travelling all day …
Today we are off on our first game drive in the Maasai Mara – such a different scene from Chobe. Here the land is lush and simply teeming with animals. One of the drivers said that in ten years of driving he had never seen so many animals! He probably says that to all this passengers 🙂 So here goes!
The highlight would have to be this lion pair whom we followed for a while and then watched as they mated about ten metres from us! We had been waiting about ten minutes as he followed her at a polite distance until she decided the time was right. The driver said that as they had mated about ten minutes before, they were due for another one, and sure enough five minutes later it happened! Apparently they mate about every 15 minutes for several days! So impressed …
Apparently she felt that enough was enough and left him wondering if he had overplayed his paw.
These photos give the impression we were alone with this romantic couple. In actual fact it looked like this when I zoomed out.
We also saw zebras …
hartebeeste, Thompsons gazelles,
One of the most amazing pieces of drama was unfolding before our eyes when we went down to a river crossing where thousands of wildebeeste were trying to pluck up the courage to scramble down the bank and cross the river but they seemed to be aware that there was a lioness and a crocodile waiting patiently for their lunch to arrive. Crocodile looks a bit fuzzy as it was about two hundred metres away and was only picked out by our guide using binoculars …
hippos … our hair standing on end as they all lie around in silence – the only sounds being their breathing and an occasional groan.
vultures, the Nubian vulture, which is the most powerful vulture and one that the other vultures defer to, the Ruppells vulture, and both of them sitting on a tree awaiting the newly dead.
We didn’t see any leopards but we did see the remains of an impala a leopard had enjoyed up a tree
At the end of the drive Captain’s Choice had arranged for us to have breakfast on the open plain, complete with armed sentry to ward off those pesky wild animals and all mod cons for Ros.
I was impressed by this mobile phone repeater station in the park cunningly disguised as a palm tree!
After our tour we visited a local Masai village and were invited into one of their houses, constructed of timber and cow dung.
The first (tiny) room we came to was for the baby calf – the cow is the most important thing in the world to the Masai. Their survival and their prestige are directly related to how many cows they have.
This is the living room
the parents’ room
and the kids’ bedroom
Inside it was almost completely dark with a small fire burning and only a couple of holes about 200mm round to allow some ventilation and about 1700mm headroom. Ros looking a little nervous as she didn’t know exactly what she was sitting on – probably a cow dung seat. I could not see a thing until my flash went off!
Ros was then forced to explain diplomatically that as much as she has always wanted to sleep with the Masai, she was a happily married woman.
Afterwards they serenaded us with their traditional dance
and showed us their jumping dance which is how the menfolk attract the women. Apparently when they do this the women watch shyly while the other men pretend to ignore the performance.
One of our group thought he would give it a go and didn’t do too badly!
Their village is circular with a thorny fence to keep out lions
and to protect their flock of cattle
As well as their cows they have a handy flock of goats as well all neatly corralled into this pen
We had pretty much covered all the animals we expected to see in the Maasai Mara so decided to take the afternoon off in our tent with a couple of bottles of wine and the cigar that Ros brought to be consumed somewhere in Africa.
You know what it’s like – you’ve had a couple of bottles of wine and someone comes by with a wheelbarrow … what are you going to do, especially if you live on Dangar Island?
Early to bed again (funny about that) and up for a long day’s driving tomorrow to Lake Nakuru to see the rhino and the flamingoes.
Very long day today – saw these anti-poaching rangers head off first thing in the morning, which is encouraging, then left the hotel at 9.30 for a day of travelling – to Lilongwe in Malawi for a refuelling stop and then on to exotic Zanzibar.
We headed straight for our hotel, the Serena Inn, which used to be the Chinese Consulate in times gone by and what a lovely old building, beautifully restored!
It seems I have been spelling my name wrong all my life and it took a trip to Zanzibar to work that out!
A friendly lot, some of the first words we learned were the Swahili word for Hello which is “Jambo”, pronounced “Jumbo” and “Hakunah Matata” which means “No worries”. Like Aussies basically!
The first thing that struck me about Stone Town as we drove to the hotel was the number of very ornate doors – apparently a large ornate door is an important indication of your standing in the community. The spikes on many of them were to deter elephants being used as battering rams.
Ros was immediately taken by the muslim influences and before I knew it she had converted!
The old town was fascinating, full of winding alleys and seemingly no traffic regulations! Apparently the local geese were a real problem.
I was particularly keen to find Suicide Alley which I discovered on Google Maps, just near our hotel, but unfortunately street names seem to be a luxury no-one can afford, but I took a photo of it anyway.
Boat names were also a source of amusement:
Went on a tour of Stone Town in the morning – amongst the first points of interest was the house where Farrokh Bulsara grew up. You may know him as Freddy Mercury, lead singer of Queen!
We then visited the slave market where thousands of African men and women were chained and held in underground cells for up to a couple of weeks, living in their own excrement as their underground cells frequently flooded, before being sold into a lifetime of slavery. I was not aware of the crucial involvement of the explorer David Livingstone in finally forcing the local sultan to stop the practice. The next two photos are of the cells in which over a hundred at a time were forced to live while awaiting their sale.
When the trade was finally closed down, the Anglican church constructed a cathedral on the site, with the altar located right above the tree where the slaves were tied up and whipped, known as the Anglican Christ Church Cathedral.
Our tour continued to the House of Wonders, constructed by the Sultan (originally from Oman) for holding state functions. It was called the House of Wonders, because it was the tallest building in Zanzibar, it was the first to have electricity and the first to have a lift. The Sultan also offered to pay for a clock for the Christ Church Cathedral as long as its steeple was lower than the clock tower on the House of Wonders.
The fort was used as a prison and government office amongst other things.
Lots of other beautiful buildings, mostly pretty run down, unfortunately, but a few gems amongst them.
Also a lot of very dilapidated streets and buildings
We also visited a spice farm about half an hour out of Stone Town, where they grow, curry, cloves, cinnamon, lemongrass, nutmeg, pepper, vanilla, turmeric, ginger and a range of other spices as as well. One of the staff there demonstrated the use of one of the plants as a facial decoration.
Another one shimmied up a coconut palm
With every spice we tried we kept a sample in a little cone made of leaves.
I was made to look a bit of a dick with a range of items made from leaves.
Finally in the evening we went out on a dhow to a small sand island about 30 minutes from Stone Town and watched the sun go down – beautiful!
At lunch that day I spoke to the waitress and asked if I could take a photo of her hairdo – she said it took her two hours a day to organise the braids – amazing!
Loved some of the signs as well
We thoroughly enjoyed Zanzibar!
Left after breakfast for the flight to Kasane in Botswana. Being the only flight attendant in the group Ros was invited to do the safety demonstration, much to everyone’s amusement.
Arrived at Kasane International Airport to find a certain amount of chaos – it is in the process of being upgraded but has some way to go! The half-kilometre walk to the terminal from the aircraft in 40 degrees was a bit of a laugh!
Inside the lone immigration officer was somewhat overwhelmed by the arrival of 50 overseas visitors …
But it’s good to see that their HIV awareness program is alive and well.
We had a 40-minute drive to the Chobe Game Lodge deep within the Chobe National Park,
Looking across to Namibia on the other side
The land is very dry – we are here in the middle of the dry season which means that all the animals are drawn to the river to be spotted by us! After settling in we went out animal spotting in a boat. Here’s where the animal photos start – you have been warned! We did a morning cruise and and I also did a sunset cruise and we saw elephants …
impala … apparently the mark on their rear end represents the Golden Arches as they are said to be the lions’ takeaway meal.
water buffalo …
this cormorant is unusual – it eats stones so that when it dives for fish it can go that much deeper!
lions … unfortunately it was getting dark and the photos were all pretty blurry – hopefully we will get some better ones at Maasai Mara.
Finally the most beautiful African sunset
Then we went out in a four-wheel drive and we saw elephants …
a reticulated python …
birds … one of which is the the Kori Bustard which the guide insisted was spelled b-a-s-t-a-rd. This is the largest flying bird in the world apparently!
more f*%$ing impala …
baboons … felt a bit sorry for this one. He seemed to be on the outer with the rest of the clan and looked a bit miserable and possibly horny!
wart hogs – actually I tell a lie – these were in the grounds of the hotel …
along with the cute little banded mongooses (mongeese?) that were creating havoc with the lawns outside our room.
Dinner tonight was very special – Captains Choice had asked us if we were celebrating anything special on the trip and we told them that the trip was to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary. They told us to expect something special and they arranged a private dinner for the two of us on a little timber deck looking over the river with our own private waitress, Neo, who was a delight. It was so thoughtful and we enjoyed that so much but decided on an early night and were in bed by 9pm – this travelling is exhausting!
We decided to have a relaxing day on the Friday as we were still pretty tired and Ros had one of the best massages of her life! She was chatting to the massage therapist and asked her where she was from and she told her that she was from Zimbabwe. Ros told her that when she used to fly to Harare she always had a massage at the spa at the Meikles Hotel where the crew stayed and the therapist said “That would have been me – that’s where I worked and I always looked after the Qantas and British Airways crews!” Amazing!
That night we went to group dinner on the banks of the river and after the main course a group of African singers emerged carrying a cake and seemed to be heading for our table!!! They serenaded us for about ten minutes much to everyone’s enjoyment and had us in tears! Apparently Captain’s Choice had arranged for this to happen at our private dinner the night before but because we headed off to bed so early they decided to do it in front of everyone which was so much better! Yet another highlight in a trip full of them.Thank you Captain’s Choice!
Our last morning on board and it’s taken up with packing our bags and leaving them out for collection and delivery to our aircraft so that when they have checked us in we can proceed straight to the boarding gate. For the last kilometre they connected the old steam engine for the grand arrival into Rovos Rail’s private railway station and Rohan Vos, the man behind Rovos Rail, was there to greet us all personally which he does for all his trips apparently!
Rovos Rail was a wonderfully romantic experience – we have applied for membership of the metre-high club and would recommend it to anyone. Not sure that I would want to do the 30-day trip to Cairo though – two nights was perfect!
On arrival in Pretoria we had about a 40-minute drive to a private international airport called Lanseria (who ever heard of a private international airport??) We then boarded our Rovos Air Charter plane for the trip to Victoria Falls.
Got to the falls and I went straight up in an ultralight over the top of the falls – quite awe-inspiring even if the falls were a little disappointing as this is a very dry time of the year and there wasn’t much water going over the top. Took the controls for a few minutes which was a little nerve-racking but we managed to make it back in one piece. If you look carefully in the second photo you will see some little white dots (people) at the top of the falls just to the left of the pilot’s left foot – that is the Devil’s Pool – more on that later.
Ros went straight to the hotel for a massage on the banks of the river with an elephant grazing no more than 50 metres away! The Royal Livingstone Hotel is absolutely stunning.
Went for a walk at 6am to the edge of the falls and bumped into this little baboon family – one of them thought he would take a bit of a run at Ros just for a laugh and it worked!
As you can see in this photo not much water going over – this whole rock face would be covered in water in the wet season.
Back to our room and these little guys were grazing right outside our window! Can’t believe that people fly to Africa for the sole purpose of killing these beautiful animals …
Something I have wanted to do ever since I heard about it was to swim in a little pool on the lip of the falls called the Devil’s Pool. You can actually lean over the edge and stare into the abyss. Ros always amazes me and in spite of being completely terrified she joined me, clambering barefoot over sharp rocks, swimming through a set of rapids to the pool and sitting on a ledge a metre from the edge and even leaning out to look down into the crevice.
You can tell by his expression that the guy holding Ros’ legs just loves his job!
The view down into a watery hell
Managed to survive the experience and got back to our room in one piece.
Victoria Falls would have to be the highlight of the trip so far!
Left the hotel at 10am for Cape Town Railway station for our train trip – one that Ros has been dreaming about for over 20 years! Moses was there to greet us with his final piece of millinery finery.
On arrival at the station yet another glass of champagne was there to greet us – what is this champagne business all about?
In the lounge a violin/guitar duo serenaded our arrival and we were then welcomed by Rohan Vos, the founder of Rovos Rail. From there it was on board The Pride of Africa for our 48-hour journey to Pretoria.
Shame about our cabin – ah well. I guess we will just have to put up with it. Amazingly enough our cabin was called “Hwange” which is one of the few places in Africa that we have actually been to! And our room maid’s name is Lebogang which is close enough to Lembongan which is a place we stayed in Bali – weird!!
The lounge was bit “How’s your father” as well but one must not complain.
Lunch was announced at 12.30 by a girl walking along the 20-odd carriages banging on a small xylophone. There is a choice of two dining carriages – Rohan Vos apparently said that the definition of a luxury train was one with enough seats in the dining car for everyone to eat whenever it suited them – all at once if necessary. Here are a few of our group sitting down to dinner.
Ros looking decidedly miserable with her lot.
A nice little touch – they provide goggles to avoid all those nasty little beasties getting in your eyes when you decide to take your life in your hands by sticking your head out the window.
In contrast to all this amazing luxury were the miles and miles of squatters huts surrounding Cape Town. One of them is said to house over two million people! I can’t help feeling that one day it is all going to explode with frustration. A couple of things really brought it home for us – as we were leaving Cape Town with champagne glasses in hand all the little kids were lined up along the tracks waving at us, and then a large piece of fruit smashed against the window and burst into a thousand pieces. Then we understood why the windows on the train were all toughened glass with steel shutters that slide up and we were asked to ensure they were all closed whenever we pulled into a station. Also, late in the night in the middle of the veld we came across a huge area full of very bright lights on very tall poles. There didn’t seem to be any buildings around them until we passed close by and I realised that it was another huge squatter town with thousands of tiny huts around, but because none of the houses had windows the whole place looked deserted. Very occasionally you could see a light burning inside one of them but for the most part it looked like a ghost town. We feel so privileged to have been born white Australians!
Travelling along the Hex River Valley we passed by an amazing range of snow capped mountains and mile after mile of vineyards.
Stopped for about an hour in the tiny town of Majisfontein which was built to service the needs of travellers passing by on the train. We decided to do the obligatory 10-minute tour of the township in a decrepit London double-decker bus where the top-hatted, bugle-playing driver’s commentary was peppered with “It’s SHOWTIME!” and “LOVE IT when you speak foreign!” and “We are now turning right because we can’t turn left”. After that everyone retired to the pub for a singalong with the driver.
There were two little museums to visit, the first one containing an amazing array of knick-knacks from times of yore, and the other a transport museum with about a dozen cars and a train.
I thought I would check out employment opportunities for celebrants while I was here.
Loved the little weaver birds who had set up home in the garden of the hotel.
Back on board for more drinkies (is there no end to them??) and dinner where it is expected that passengers will dress formal. We decided not to disappoint and got a round of applause from members of the group 🙂
All was absolutely tickety-boo until we asked for some ice for Ros’ wine – the look we got from Elliot, our sommelier, was a classic! The expression “Surely you jest!”, while not actually spoken, was on the tip of his lips dying to pop out..
Slept surprisingly well and woke to a freezing morning. We are told the temperature range today will be from 8-32 degrees. Stopped briefly at Worcester so that Ros could wash the windows – a woman’s work is never done!
Had an early lunch prior to our arrival in Kimberley where we did a short tour of the town. Diamond mining has now ceased in Kimberley but they have now started going through the tailings in search of diamonds they may have missed and they expect this process to take another 15 years. They are hoping that tourism will make up for the lack of mining jobs. Not sure how successful that is going to be …
The Cullinan diamond, a replica of which is shown here, in now part of the Crown Jewels
A nice little surprise as we left Kimberley was a colony of flamingos right next to the railway line.
Dinner was dressy again and we returned to our cabin to find a bottle of champagne, a box of tea and some nougat and rose petals and a card from Rovos Rail wishing us a happy anniversary – very nice touch!