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The Voice and Sound of Africa in Tanzania by Kollin Buchholz and Frank Dix

Listening to an interesting story of the fig tree with spiritual powers.  Building our Swahili vocabulary with words such as jambo, karibu, and asante sana. Falling asleep to the voice and sounds of Africa, the roar of a lion, and the whooping of hyena; most distinctive noises of the African bush. This and much more lay ahead of us on our eye opening safari to the peaceful and friendly country of Tanzania.    

Kollin Buchholz and Frank Dix The Voice and Sound of Africa in Tanzania by Kollin Buchholz and Frank Dix

After landing at Kilimanjaro Airport situated outside of Arusha, and catching up on some shut eye at the Machweo Wellness Retreat in Arusha, we met up with our private guide, Jabshir Rashidi. Armed with many years of experience and knowledge on the Africa Adventure Company guiding team, he drove us to Ndarakwai Ranch where we would begin our safari. Skilled at driving he navigated through the buzzing traffic and interesting towns in our super comfortable customized safari vehicle (4x4 Land Cruiser).

Ndarakwai Scenery a Giraffe and  Zebras  Ndarakwai Ranch

Ndarakwai, what a lovely place to begin in the foothills of Mt. Meru and Mt Kilimanjaro! After receiving smiles, a moist facecloth and a welcome drink from the staff that greeted us we were briefed on the camp and shown to our tents.  Wow! These tents were great. Clean, comfortable with a great viewing deck, from which later that day we would observe mischievous baboons up to their antics.

We enjoyed great homemade food, a game drive, a walk to see the trenches from WW1, a visit to a local Maasai village where we met the chief who has 9 wives, many children, over 300 goats and sheep, and over 800 cows.

We also got to meet the owner of Ndarakwai, Peter Jones

who has committed himself to a bold experiment in self-sustaining conservation and restoring the Ranch’s health to support wildlife populations and creating a compatible balance between the needs of man and the environment. Thomas the resident guide joined us as we enjoyed sundowners in the treehouse observation deck and then after dinner and hand feeding a bush baby with banana, we were treated to a night drive under the African blanket ceiling of millions of stars while viewing nocturnal animals such as the civet and spring hares.

the owner of Ndarakwai, Peter Jones the treehouse

Next on the agenda was a visit to Tarangire National Park which has a long river running through it, being the only source of water for wildlife during the dry season. En route we stopped at the magical Tarangire Treetops Lodge for a delicious lunch at the central dining area which is built around a large Baobab tree that is more than 800 years old. Zebra came to drink from the waterhole in front of the main area.

Scenery Pool Tarangire Treetops Lodge Tarangire Treetops Lodge

We entered the national park and along the Tarangire River we saw a high concentration of wildlife such as wildebeest, zebra, giraffe, warthog, ostrich, baboons and plenty of elephant for which this park is famous for. We went a little off the beaten track and stopped at Little Oliver’s which is an intimate camp located in an area with a high concentration of wildlife. The main area and the 5 en-suite tents have great views over the river bed. 

That evening we stayed at the Tarangire Safari Lodge which has spectacular views over the river with its plentiful wildlife and birds among the many acacia tress. After waking up to the sounds of baboon playing in the tree and dik-dik eating between the tents we watched the procession of elephants moving away from the river which could all be seen from our tent. After a large breakfast we continued our exciting adventure.

Scenery at Tarangire Safari Lodge  Scenery elephants at Tarangire River

Tarangire Safari Lodge  Elephant in Tarangire River

Ngorongoro – where you have several choices for loges in the area. We stopped at Gibbs Farm, Exploreans and Escarpment Lodge along the way – each offering something a bit different in terms of style and experience.   We arrived for our overnight stay at Ngorongoro Sopa.

Signage at Ngorongoro   Ngorongoro Sopa

After breakfast with views, and breathing in the crisp air we jumped into our vehicle and descended the winding road down the side of the rim and then onto the floor of the crater. What a spectacular scene, abundant wildlife and a pristine environment that took our breath away. One stand out experience was watching the lioness who could not find her cub. She walked back and forth in desperation calling and looking. Along with her sister and another cub she walked past our vehicle down the road searching.  Small sounds came from some vegetation nearby and the cub came running out to meet her mother -  a touching reunion between mother and child.

Bird sighting in Tanzania  Lioness met her cub

The Serengeti field with Wildebeest  hippo pool with wildebeest, birds, and zebras

After a picnic lunch at the hippo pool we ascended the crater, drove through the highlands and across the open plains to our first camp – Namiri Plains. The Serengeti is everything we imagined and more! Two lions greeted us on arrival at camp – this was a great sign of amazing sightings to come. We had a very interesting conversation with Pako at Namiri Plains who is currently working on the habituation of the chimpanzees on Rubondo Island in the south-western corner of Lake Victoria.

A tree in Namiri Plains  Namiri Plains

From falling to sleep listening to the unforgettable sounds of lions and hyena at Namiri Plains, following hunting cheetah on your journey to the next camp,  lions walking right through our season mobile camp sight and an attempted migration crossing at the Grumeti River – the Serengeti lived up to its reputation.

Namiri Plains  Namri Plains

The following morning we were off to our next camp in the Serengeti taking time to follow a hunting cheetah along the way.

Cheetah in Serengeti  Cheetah in Serengeti

We visited several properties in the Serengeti including lunch at Mbuze Mawi, Pioneer Camp, Migration Camp, Sayari Camp and Lemala Mara – now that’s a whirlwind trip!

One of our favorites was the Serengeti Shared Camp which is a traditional mobile tented camp nicely located between a rocky hill on one side and a large flat topped rock on the other which the local lion frequently lie on and simply watch the people moving around camp. That evening three lions walked past the camp and once again early in the morning (that we were aware off). Hyena outside the tent woke us up a couple of times in the night. This is a camp where many of our AAC clients stay!

Serengeti Shared Camp - Where many AAC clients stay Serengeti Shared Camp - Where many AAC clients stay

Our last night Africa we were so close to the migration we could watch the wildebeest and feel the ground rumbling as they ran past heading south.

Wildebeest Migration heading south two zebra drinking on the river

The next morning after breakfast and a short game drive we headed to the Kogatenda airstrip for our scheduled Air Excell charter flight back to Arusha and the Mt Meru Hotel for lunch, rest, dinner and a freshen up before leaving on our flights back home.

Wildebeest Migration heading south Two lions playing

This being our first time to East Africa - Tanzania did not disappoint. We had the highest expectations, and we were constantly surprised by the high level of accommodation, food, and most of all service. We have done much international and domestic U.S. travel and the level of service was highest in Tanzania. In hind sight this adventure allowed us to visit a large and diverse group of camps and lodges, as well as get a first-hand view of the logistics involved in traversing Tanzania. We will now be extremely effective in presenting the best and most customized routing of itinerary for our travelers, by calling upon our experiences from this adventure.

Although the Serengeti, Ngorongoro, and Tarangire Parks surpassed expectations with their game viewing and their sustainable camp requirements – it is the memory and impact of the people of Tanzania that we will cherish most…and the Lions… definitely the Lions too!

The next morning after breakfast and a short game drive we headed to the Kogatende airstrip where we bid farewell to Jabishir.  A final departure for our scheduled Air Excel charter flight back to Arusha and the dayroom at Mt Meru Hotel for lunch, rest, dinner and a freshen up before leaving on our flights back home.

The Voice and Sound of Africa in Tanzania by Kollin Buchholz and Frank Dix Arusha Airport

Mark Nolting in Tanzania

My most recent safari to Tanzania featured the southern circuit where wildlife is plentiful, whereas fortunately, tourists are not! The trip began in Arusha, then onto Ruaha, Selous and finishing in Zanzibar.

After a short visit in Arusha I flew by scheduled charter flight to Ruaha - now the largest national park in Tanzania. Known for its great populations of elephant, buffalo, greater and lesser kudu, hippo, crocs, it is also one of the country's best national parks, and because of its location, it is one of the least visited.

Dining at Ruaha - now the largest national park in Tanzania.

Ruaha's scenery is spectacular. The Great Ruaha River, with its impressive gorges, deep pools and rapids, runs for 100 miles (160 km), close to the park's southern boundary, and it is home to many hippo and crocodiles. Black riverbed rocks are contrasted against golden grasses and baobab trees that line the riverbank, creating a unique and beautiful sight.

The dry season, June to October, is the best time to visit the park, when game is concentrated along the Ruaha River. Large numbers of greater and lesser kudu, elephant and impala can be seen, along with eland, sable antelope, roan antelope, buffalo, Defassa waterbuck, ostrich and giraffe. Lion, leopard, spotted and striped hyena, black-backed jackal, bat-eared fox and African wild dog are also present in significant numbers. Black rhino are present but seldom seen. Over 573 species of birds have been recorded.

This is also one of the best parks in East Africa for escorted wildlife walks, and for those interested in walking, Jongomero Camp is undoubtedly your best bet. Jongomero is located on the banks of the Jongomero Sand River in the southwestern section of Ruaha and has 8 classic luxury tents with double vanity and solar-heated showers. The camp offers game drives in open vehicles, escorted walks with armed professional guides, bush breakfasts and bush dinners. As the camp is in a remote part of the park, other travelers are seldom if ever seen.

Jongomero Camp Jongomero Camp
Jongomero Camp

Mwagusi Safari Camp, located on the seasonal Mwagusi River, has 10 large tents with hot-cold running water showers and comfortable lounge areas under thatch. Game drives in open vehicles and walks are offered. Elephant may often be seen digging for water in the dry riverbed right in front of camp - very entertaining indeed!

The Ruaha River Lodge is located on the banks of the Ruaha River and offers stunning views. The simple yet spacious 29 stone-and-thatch bandas are located on the river bank, each with a private patio. There are two dining areas, one on the river's edge and another on a hill overlooking the river. Game drives are offered, but walks are not. This is the best option for travelers on a budget.

Ruaha River Lodge View Dining at Ruaha River Lodge
Ruaha River Lodge

My next stop was the Selous Game Reserve - the second largest game reserve in Africa, and a World Heritage Site. Unexploited and largely unexplored, no human habitation is allowed in this virgin bush, except at limited tourist facilities. The Selous is a stronghold for over 50,000 elephant, 150,000 buffalo (herds often exceed 1,000), and large populations of lion, leopard, Lichtenstein's hartebeest, greater kudu, hippo, crocodiles, and numerous other species, including giraffe, zebra, wildebeest, waterbuck, African wild dog, impala and a small number of black rhino. Colobus monkey can be found in the forests along the Rufiji River. Over one million large animals live within its borders. Over 350 species of birds and 2,000 plant species have been recorded.

View from Beho Beho
View from Beho Beho

The Rufiji River, the largest river in East Africa, roughly bisects the park as it flows from the southwest to the northeast. High concentrations of hippo and crocs are present. Exploring the Rufiji River and its channels, and lakes by boat is another great way to view game and experience the reserve.

Morning walks accompanied by an armed ranger and guide are popular and are conducted by some of the camps. On one of my walks from Beho Beho Camp we encountered 3 female elephant as we tried crossing a dry river bed. We backtracked to another crossing point but as we went down the path we met these same elephants walking up it. Our guide had us quickly move back down the path we had come.

Fly camping for a few nights is also available from select camps. This reserve can give you the feeling of exploring the bush for the first time, because you will encounter relatively few other visitors during your safari.

Beho Beho is my first pick of camps for an overall quality safari experience - especially for those wishing to walk in the bush. Beho Beho has been completely refurbished and the 10 luxury stone cottages have a light, breezy feel and offer panoramic views over the Rufiji River flood plain. Game drives, boating on Lake Tagalala and superb walking are offered. There is a swimming pool to enjoy between game drives. Next to Beho Beho is Bailey's Banda, a new private villa, features 2 bedrooms, private pool and deck. Guests enjoy exclusive vehicle, guide and staff.
Elephant at Beho Beho  The Rufiji River, the largest river in East Africa Beho Beho

I also visited Amara Selous, located in the remote western part of the park on the Great Ruaha River, featuring 12 deluxe air- conditioned tents with large wooden decks and private plunge pools. Activities include open-vehicle game drives, walking safaris and boating on the river (water levels permitting). Serena Mivumo River Lodge is built on the Rufiji River and has 12 thatched air-conditioned rooms and one suite. Game viewing by open vehicles and by motorboat area, and spa treatments are offered. This is a great choice for those traveling October - December and looking for relief from the heat.

My final stop was Zanzibar. The narrow streets and Arabic architecture of historical Zanzibar City are exceptionally mystical and beautiful on a moonlit night. Main attractions include the Zanzibar Museum, former British Consulate, Arab Old Fort, the Anglican Cathedral built on the site of the former slave market, Sultan's Palace, town market and Indian bazaar. Livingstone's and Burton's houses are near the picturesque old Dhow Harbour, where traditional dhows are repaired and built. Antique shops stocked with Arab clocks, kettles, brass trays, Zanzibar beds, carved doors and frames have special atmospheres all their own.

The more pristine coral reefs off Zanzibar offer a superb diving or snorkeling experience. In addition to a mind-boggling diversity of brightly colored reef fish, dolphins, green turtles and the largest of all fishes'” the harmless whale shark'” are fairly numerous in the waters around Zanzibar.

Baraza is a "6-star" property located on a fabulous beach with 33 very spacious 1- and 2-bedroom villas with private plunge pools, several restaurants, swimming pool, and one of the top spas in East Africa. For guests looking for the best in food, service and accommodation, this would be my first choice.

Baraza is a "6-star". located on a fabulous beach  Baraza is a "6-star"

The Palms is situated along a pristine white beach next to the Baraza and consists of 6 villas featuring a bedroom, living room, Jacuzzi and private terrace overlooking the Indian Ocean. There is a swimming pool, dining room, evening bar and pool bar and massage facilities.

Kilindi is located on a pristine section of beach and has 15 luxury pavilions - each with private plunge pools (some units with 2 pools). Guests enjoy regional cuisine, an infinity pool, superb spa and lush tropical gardens. Extensive water sports and excursions are available. This is a great property for honeymooners and others wishing for privacy.

For those looking from something smaller and more remote, Matemwe Retreat features 4 exclusive 2-story suites with air- conditioned bedrooms on the first floor and a private sun terrace with plunge pool on the second. I love the 15 minute or so drive on the sand road along the coast through a fishing village to get to the property. This really sets the scene for the remote beach holiday! Matemwe Lodge, perched on the cliffs overlooking the northeast coast, has 12 bungalows with private verandahs with hammocks to enjoy the sea views. There are 2 swimming pools, restaurant, dive center and a variety of optional excursions that can be booked. This is a good option for a mid-priced property. Matemwe Beach House, a private 3-bedroom villa set right on the beach, has a swimming pool and is rented on an exclusive basis. Ideal for families, the house has a dedicated butler and chef.

Matemwe Beach House
Matemwe Beach House view

- by: Mark Nolting

Elena Theodosiou - Serengeti Explored Safari to Tanzania

Love affair - Tanzania!
This has been a very special year for us at The Africa Adventure Company. We celebrated our 25 th anniversary, and as part of the celebrations I was chosen to accompany our '12 day Explored Safari to Tanzania.

Our small group consisted of the five of us: Charles and Barbara Nance from St Louis Missouri, Judy Maron from San Diego California, Sonia Cohen from Fort Lauderdale Florida and me also Fort Lauderdale Florida. The sixth and I think we would all agree most important me mber of our group was our guide Emmanuel Mkenda. This gentle man with the big smile took our safari to the next level - his professionalism, knowledge, patience, skill in locating wildlife and absolute determination to make very minute we were on safari special blew us all away! We learned so much from Mkenda - he is definitely the best kind of ambassador for The Africa Adventure Company, Ranger Safaris and ultimately the wildlife and people of Tanzania.

I met the group in Tanzania at the Kilimanjaro Airport and we started our adventure with the drive to Ndarakwai our first stop. This lovely little camp is located in the foothills of Kilimanjaro and is a gentle introduction into the wonders of game viewing. We enjoyed a game drive , a very interesting game walk in the afternoon and a visit with the local Masai village.

Sonia, Judy, Elena, Ndarakwai Guide, Mkenda, Charles and Barbara
From Left to right: Sonia, Judy, Elena, Ndarakwai Guide, Mkenda, Charles and Barbara

5353 North Federal Highway, Suite 300  Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33308 U.S.A Tel: 800·882·9453  Tel: 954·491·8877  Fax: 954·491·9060

email: ï‚·

Judy with her personal bead artist. Elena and Sonia with the young Masaai girls
Elena and Sonia with the young Masaai girls and Judy with her personal bead artist.

From the foothills of Kilimanjaro we drove through Arusha and onto Tarangire National Park - and the most wonderful camp Tarangire Treetops . Tarangire proved to be full of wildlife from the moment we drove in to the park. The visit rewarded us with lions, a beautiful male leopard, lots of elephants, buffalo, many more elephants, an African rock python in a tree, a giraffe at a water hole (drinking!) and so many grazers I lost count.

Lion Lumps   Leopard in a tree? Elephants everywhere
Lion Lumps    /             Leopard in a tree?          /        Elephants everywhere

We made is our mission to spread the word about the AAC anniversary throughout Tanzania and Mkenda was kind enough to get the local Masaai involved in the celebration.

Elena Theodosiou - Serengeti Explored Safari to Tanzania

The next day we began the drive to our next destination, Lake Manya ra. Mkenda stopped at the Masaai livestock market - where Masaai from many villages meet together and buy and sell cows, goats and sheep. The vibrant colors and all the human and animal sounds together were really incredible and opened another window into this fascinating culture. During the game drive in the park w e were hugely fortunate to see the tree climbing lions here.

Catnapping - in a tree
Catnapping - in a tree

The next day we continued with the drive through the Ngorongoro Conservation area on the way to the Crater our next stop. The crater is a wonder of nature. The only non -flooded intact caldera on the planet! The wildlife who live here are concentrated in this small but incredible area and make game viewing really easy. We saw lions, hyenas, black -backed jackal, and elephants. We had lunch with one of the huge elephants who call the crater home. He was eating the bark of a yellow acacia and we were in our vehicle enjoying a lovely packed picnic lunch! We all agreed it was one of our best meals - good company!

Enjoying the view of the crater below	Lunch in Ngorongoro Crater Elephant
Enjoying the view of the crater below Lunch in Ngorongoro Crater

Next came Oldupai where we stopped at the Leakey's Museum and we then continued the drive to the Serengeti stopping off at the shifting sands. Being game f or everything we all had to climb the sands and continue our AAC anniversary celebration.

Enjoying the view from the shifting sands
Enjoying the view from the shifting sands

As we neared the Serengeti the terrain again began to change . Having had some early rains this year, parts of the park were lush and green and other parts still dry. The Serengeti is amazing in that it has so many different landscapes - from granitic outcrops (called kopjes) to rolling hills and then the vast open plains. It continued to surprise us the whole time we were there.

Where to celebrate our AAC anniversary?? Right, let's do it after lunch.

Lunch in the Serengeti!
Lunch in the Serengeti!

Once we arrived at camp and after a nice warm shower we sat around the fire reliving a very exciting and full day. Mkenda had asked us to be up and ready extra early so that we could maximize our day.

Mobile Tented Camp
Mobile Tented Camp

This is truly one of the best parts of being on safari - the hands on, on the ground (but with all the comforts of home - and then some) '˜Out of Africa' safari experience.

Our first sighting about 15 minutes from camp was a secretary bird - killing (with some hard kicks that were audible all the way to the vehicle) and then eating a puff adder! Certainly one of the most memorable kills I have every seen.

Secretary bird with puff adder   /         Baby Zebra napping      /      Lions making advances
Secretary bird with puff adder   /         Baby Zebra napping      /      Lions making advances

The Great Migration! W e went off to see what was happening at the river only to get there just in time for the tail end of a river crossing! We were so excited and overwhelmed it brought some of us to tears - just the privilege of being witnesses to this awesome spectacle.

In to the river and out the other side! In to the river and out the other side!
In to the river and out the other side!

While waiting to see if any more wildebeest would take the leap - Charles spotted some action close to
the river and pointed it out to Mkenda who said one word '˜cheetah'! Off we went to investigate and found a coalition of three male cheetahs who had brought down a juvenile wildebeest and were in the process of lunch. The two of them had moved off to the side while the third took his turn and we then watched them all relax in a nice shady spot with very full bellies!

Cheetahs, relax in a nice shady spot with very full bellies! coalition of three male cheetahs who had brought down a juvenile wildebeest

I love cooking so I had to check out the camp kitchen. The metal box is the oven (it produced some of the most delicious bread we have ever eaten and for desert - a crème caramel)!

Elena Theodosiou - Serengeti Explored Safari to Tanzania Elena Theodosiou - Serengeti Explored Safari to Tanzania

Leaving camp behind we started the drive, game viewing along the way to our last night on safari at the beautiful Migration Camp. Arriving at Migration Camp in the late afternoon we all wanted some time to think over the amazing abundance of wildlife we had seen and then some well deserved sundowners on the deck!

The beautiful kopjes, and our banner one last time with the wildebeest as back ground. The beautiful kopjes, and our banner one last time with the wildebeest as back ground.
The beautiful kopjes, and our banner one last time with the wildebeest as back ground.

Tanzania was truly a revelation for me - having had the privilege of being on safari before the sheer scope of the parks and the abundance of the wildlife was incredible. This was truly an adventure to remember for all of us!

Many thanks to my fellow safariers for making this such a fun safari , and to Mkenda who made this safari special - whose knowledge and pride in his beautiful country touched us all. Your love of what you do and the joy you bring to it is remarkable.

Wildlife in the plains with Mt. Kilimanjato in the background

- by: Elena Theodosiou

Ian Flores - Tanzania

Shadow in the Night - My Climb Up Mt. Kilimanjaro - August 2011
Ian Flores - Tanzania
I recently had the good fortune to be sent on one of the most exciting adventures of my life - climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro. The Africa Adventure Company is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year (2011); and to commemorate it they have put together a few special trips including this 'Kili Climb'. I have always found that when a trip requires more than me just sitting and listening to a guide, I feel like I have gained something more than just knowledge.

When traveling by foot you notice more of your surroundings, such as the sound of winds blowing through the forest to the magnificent vistas normally taken for granted when traveling in a plane or land vehicle. While I did do a few days o f safari beforehand in the beautiful parks/conservation areas of Lake Manyara and Ngorongoro, the focus and highlight of the trip was definitely the multi -day climb. I would recommend a few days of safari before the climb because it allows your body to start adjusting to local time and higher altitudes - like at Ngorongoro Conservation Area that ranges between 4,400 to 11,800 feet.

A few fun facts
Mt. Kilimanjaro is one of the 'Seven Summits,' which comprise the tallest mountains on each continent. While Kilimanjaro is the tallest mountain in Africa it also holds the record for the tallest freestanding mountain in the world.

This is not a 'technical' climb: no ice axes, crampons or ropes are needed. The most hazardous aspect of climbing is altitude sickness. So while it is one of the 'easier' climbs as far as mountaineering goes, it would not be prudent to think that this is an easy stroll in the (national) park. It is a gorgeous walk and with the right preparation and expectations this will be one of those great experiences that will remain forever etched in your mind.

My trip was in early August when the weather is supposed to be colder, but a great time to climb. This is true, but you also learn quickly that the weather is as fickle as today's stock market, and you need to be prepared for whatever comes your way.

Ian Flores - Tanzania Ian Flores - Tanzania

There are five or six routes up the mountain and I selected the Rongai Route for my ascent. This is the most remote and one of the 'less traveled' ones when compared to the Marangu (aka Coca Cola) or the Machame (aka Whiskey) routes. The least traveled is the Umbwe Route as it is the most difficult and allows the least time for acclimatization. In general the Rongai is a little longer than the other routes, but it is also one of the gentlest ascents of the options available. Acclimatization hikes are a part of this program which allows your body to adjust to the high elevations reached. This is also a very scenic route because you go up the mountain one way, and down another.

Ready, Set, GO!
The day before the climb we stayed at the perfect casual trekker venue - Kilimanjaro Mountain Resort. That first evening, after settling into our rooms and enjoying a nice buffet dinner, we were briefed by our local trip coordinator. We were told how much weight we could bring (33lbs) and were given a hand scale to check the weight of our gear. We were also given maps and an overall briefing of the climb. If any of us had rented gear like sleeping bags, mats, walking poles, etc we also collected at this time.

Kilimanjaro Mountain Resort Kilimanjaro Mountain Resort Kilimanjaro Mountain Resort

Later, at the bar, we noticed a group of about 20 people (mostly in their 20s and 30s) celebrating their return from the mountain. Interestingly, it wasn't the wild party atmosphere that you would expect from this demographic, but more of a relief and enjoyment of reliving the stories created on the mountain. It felt like I was about to go on that really fast and high roller coaster where everyone waiting in line is slightly nervous but excited, while those getting off have this satisfied and wide grin plastered on their face and a sense of relief

I did not want to ask anyone about the actual climb as I did not want to have any expectations. However, I did meet a girl from the UK and couldn't help but noticing how her neck and hands were badly peeling from a combination of the intense sun and wind. Note to self: Don't forget the sunscree .

Day One - Nalemuru Gate to Rongai Camp One (aka Simba Camp)
This morning we were met by our coordinator, Ngaya, in the lobby. After storing a ny extra baggage and getting some Tupperware whose contents would be our lunch later that day we headed to the gate (1.5hr drive) to collect our climbing permit, meet our guides and porters and begin! Our private group consisted of a motley crew with an age range of 49 years from the youngest to oldest.

L to R: Francis, Trenton, Barry, Florence, Dana, Elia, January, Justice and Ian
L to R: Francis, Trenton, Barry, Florence, Dana, Elia, January, Justice and Ian

Here's the cast of characters (from youngest to oldest):
1. Trenton - A 21 year old college student from Kansas Universit y who was obviously in the best shape of all of. He trained by running several times a week, and did a 'test run' up Pikes Peak in Colorado (14,115ft)!
2. Ian (me) - I am a 32 year old father of two who was ready to temporarily trade the diapers and sippy cups for gaiters and walking sticks.

3. Francis - A 35 year old from Canada who was ready to make this climb as a symbolic effort for others in his life. He spent a lot more money on gear for the trip than he originally admitted.
4. Dana - A tall 62 year old Texan who sounds a lot like Bill Clinton, is easy going and has the perfect punch line for any scenario. He packed every gizmo, gadget and supply imaginable.
5. Barry - He is a true testament that age isn't anything more than a number. At 70 years old he was the strongest of the group, climbing without headaches or other problems and only took Diamox (altitude sickness medicine) on the last day as a 'precaution'.

 Our private group consisted of a motley crew with an age range of 49 years from the youngest to oldest. Ian Flores - Tanzania

We set off on an easy 3 hour day of hiking through farmland and forest stands. Our picnic lunch was tasty and our arrival into camp was heralded as a success. This is where we first got to see all our accommodations, mess tent and lavatory for the trip (see below).

Before sitting down for our dinner we headed further up the trail on a brief acclimatization walk. It was an easy half hour hike without any gear (except some water). At the top of our walk we rested for about 15 minutes before heading back down for popcorn and tea (or hot chocolate). Our dinner came soon after which was a three course delicious meal.

Our tent  Our dinner came soon after which was a three course delicious meal.
 Ian Flores with the rest of the group

Total Time Walking: 3.5hrs
Distance: 4.5miles (7.2km)
Elevation Min/Max: 6,568ft/8,858ft (2,000m/2,700m)
Elevation Gained: 2,290ft (700m)
Weather: Walking during the day was in the 60s. Evening at camp in the 50s. Temperatures dropped into the 40s overnight.
Difficulty: Easy

Day Two - Rongai Camp One to Kikilelwa Camp
This morning we were woken up at 6am and brought a choice of hot beverage to our tent within a few minutes. Fifteen minutes later a large bowl o f hot water was delivered for us to use for washing up before breakfast. This was our second cooked meal and we were quickly seeing that meal times were extravagant affairs. Today's Special: Porridge, scrambled eggs, bread (no butter ), bacon and fruits. By 8am we were on our way. 

Day Pack contents:
- 2-3 liters of water (camelback and two Nalgene bottles, 1 -liter each)
- Rain pants
- Gore-Tex jacket
- Warm hat
- Phone (yes, there's reception) - using Google Latitudes to show progress to those at home
- Spare batteries and camera
-  Multi-tool (SOG)
- GPS: Garmin Dakota 20
- On-the-trail first aid kit: lip balm with 15 SPF, Sunscreen, Saline nasal spray, Imodium, Advil, Aleve, Diamox, toilet paper, wet naps, hydrating powders, Steripen, water purifying tablets, and more

Day Pack contents:
Dakota 20         /        Google Latitudes       /                       Camelbak        /                 Steripen         /                 SOG Multi-tool

This morning we were greeted by crisp and clear weather with stunning views of Mt. Kilimanjaro and Mawenzi Peak. The trail was wide enough to walk side -by-side. Each day of the walk was in a different climate zone providing for constantly changing view. We started in the rainforest and slowly moved into the Heath Zone, characterized by more shrub -like bushes that are lower to the ground.

Today's walk was on more of an incline and about an hour into our walk clouds and mist slowly replaced the sunshine. Visibility was about the length of a football field. On our walk we passed Mawenzi Caves where we ran into a heart surgeon from Austria who had a neat gadget called a Portable Finger Pulse Oximeter for monitoring blood oxygen . While there are no medical studies proving a link between low blood-oxygen ratio, you can be sure that if your oxygen levels start dropping it will coincide with you not feeling so well. Also, yo u will make a lot of friends on the trail if you have one of these gadgets.

The group kind of walked together and in pairs with different people, but after our lunch Dana and Barry were in the lead trailed by Trenton and me. Francis kept falling back beh ind but was always with a guide. We knew we were setting our own paces, and that we were all walking at paces we felt comfortable with.

Mawenzi Peak /Mt. Kilimanjaro/In the Clouds
Mawenzi Peak                           /                  Mt. Kilimanjaro                  /                          In the Clouds

After lunch we continued hiking for several hours, enjo ying the conversation. This is when I started feeling the headaches. They came and went like the wind, and in varying degrees, but the important thing was that they always went away. At this stage no one in the group was taking any altitude sickness medication (Diamox). Our guide recommended that we allow our bodies to adapt to the high altitudes and take it once we are feeling the effects of altitude sickness.

Barry and Dana arrived to camp about 15 minutes prior to Trenton and me, and we were ahead of Francis by about 25 minutes. We were slowly figuring out our routine: Get into camp, drop your gear, set up shop (lay out sleeping bag), change into non -hiking clothes, wash up with warm water, and head to the tent for either peanuts or popcorn. Thirty minutes later our dinner would always arrive like clockwork, and lots of it. I started to understand why the five of us needed an entourage of 20 guides, cooks and porters - to bring up all the food we would be eating!

The food we would be eating!  The food we would be eating!  The food we would be eating!

Our teammate Francis arrived to camp looking winded and was apologetic about not being able to keep up. He said he was definitely feeling the effects of AMS (Altitude Mountain Sickness). His headaches weren't disappearing and I believe he was having some respiratory issues. He started t aking Diamox, but said he wasn't feeling any change yet. He forced some food down, and headed to bed early.

By dinnertime the temperature was down to the 40s. It was during the middle of the night that Francis was feeling ill and our chief guide made the call to send him down the mountain that night. The logistics involved were quite impressive as his big bag had to be packed, tent broken down, and meals coordinated for his descent. He went down with Assistant Guide Justice and two other porters. From his account he walked through the night for many hours before resting and then continuing onward to the gate where he was met by an 'ambulance'.

For the remainder of the climb he was at Kilimanjaro Mountain Resort and under the supervision of Justice who took him to see the real sights of Moshi, his hometown. These sights included rice fields, the school where his mom teaches, his local hangout and more. The next time we all saw Francis was at the end of the climb, where he greeted us with a cold six pack of Kilimanjaro Beer!  

Ian Flores - Tanzania

Total Time Walking: 6-7hrs
Distance: 7.38miles (11.8km)
Francis and FlorenceElevation Min/Max: 8,858ft/11,811ft (2,700m/3,600m)
Elevation Gained: 2,953ft (900m)Weather: Walking during the day was in the 50s.

The walk was done mostly in overcast conditions with a fine misty rain. Evening at camp in the 40s. Temperatures dropped into the 30s overnight. There was frost on the ground and tents in the morning.

Difficulty: Moderate. The terrain was pretty good, but it was mostly the distan ce and time spent walking that gave this day a Moderate rating.

Day Three -Kikelelwa Camp to Mawenzi Tarn
One man short, we started out at about 8:30 a.m. for a shorter day of hiking - less than half the time spent walking the day before. The big difference was that the gradient of the terrain was much more inclined and every day we went higher and higher. At these altitudes your body works harder to acclimate to the  lower levels of availability of oxygen in the blood.

Room with a view  Frost on the ground  Today's destination: Mawenzi Peak
     Room with a view              /                Frost on the ground                 /   Today's destination: Mawenzi Peak

This was my day to fall under the powerful grip of AMS. It came in the form of headaches that were a constant throbbing in my head, accompanied by nausea. The only thing that seemed to help was drinking water, Advil, but mostly keeping my mind preoccupied by listening to other people talk so I didn't have ot. When that wasn't happening I tried to think about others, and how my own problems/pain are insignificant compared to theirs. This see med to work for the most part.

We arrived to our waterfront camp (see pic below), dropped our gear, had lunch and then decided we would take our second and final acclimatization walk. This one wasn't an easy 25 minute stroll, however in a relatively short amount of time we climbed roughly 1,000 feet to Mawenzi Peak. Needless to say, by this stage the headaches had consumed my every thought. I thought there was no way I could continue up the mountain feeling like that. I told Florence, and he suggested I d rink more water. I told him I was already feeling nauseous and that it probably wouldn't help. He insisted, so I drank and my suspicions were correct as I 'popped' at the top.

I immediately started feeling better and the headaches subsided. Instead of staying at the top of the mountain for 25 minutes, as originally planned, we headed back after 10. The walk down was nice as it was my first headache -free part of the day. However, once we arrived in camp and stopped descending the headaches continued where they left off. I laid down in my tent with my feet hanging out because I couldn't be bothered taking my boots off. A few minutes later, Florence popped his head in with some 'Magicky' pills. He had ibuprofen and suggested I start taking Diamox. I still don 't know why this thought didn't occur to me until he mentioned it. Needless to say, 20 minutes later after popping those pills I understood exactly why he called them the magicky pills'¦ life was good again!

That night after dinner Dana, Trenton and I continued our nightly tradition of me consistently beating them at Spades. I was back on top and confident about continuing my climb. To be honest I wasn't thinking of summiting; I was really taking it day -by-day.

Day Three -Kikelelwa Camp to Mawenzi Tarn  Day Three -Kikelelwa Camp to Mawenzi Tarn

Total Time Walking: 3-4hrs
Distance: 3.2 miles
Elevation Min/Max: 11,811ft/14,161ft (3,600m/4,316m)
Elevation Gained: 2,350ft (716m)Weather: Walking during the day was in the 50s. The walk was done mostly in overcast conditions with a fine misty rain. Evening at camp in the 40s. Temperatures dropped into the 30s overnight. There was frost on the ground and tents in the morning.

Difficulty: Moderate. Most incline to date as you climb steadily for the few short hours of hiking.

Day Four - Mawenzi Tarn to Kibo Camp
 By this time 'sleep' is more resting than sleep because at higher altitudes it is a sacrifice your body makes to compensate for the low levels of oxygen. You manage a handful of hours of actual sleep, but it is more about letting your body and mind recharge for a few hours. I brought an iPod with me and a lot of people asked why. I never turned it on when we were hiking, but at the end of the day when you're laying in your tent, there is something nice about turning on some music that is familiar. It allows your mind to drift off into melodies and lyrics you know so well. Rest.

We were forewarned that this day was going to be another one of those long days of hiking, but fortunately it was easy walking. We had a short incline and a long sloping walk that descended before gradually coming back up. This stretch of walk between Mawenzi and Kibo is known as the Saddle, because that's what it resembles. At this altitude we had passed the Heath and Moreland Zones with their low lying shrubs and officially entered the Alpine Desert Zone. Excep t for a few randomly scattered bushes lying about, it was all dust, rocks and a fallen airplane?!?

A small charter plane apparently crashed there a few years ago. As we approached you could see debris scattered about. The story goes that a few tourists a sked their pilot to get closer to the mountain for a better look so that they could snap a few pictures. As they got close some clouds quickly moved in, making it difficult to see, and caused the plane to crash. My first thought was, 'Why hasn't anyone taken it off the mountain,' but when you think about it, I can't really blame anyone for not wanting to carry a plane off a 19,000+ foot mountain, plus all the gear you are already carrying and do it for free!

Day Four - Mawenzi Tarn to Kibo Camp  Day Four - Mawenzi Tarn to Kibo Camp
A small charter plane apparently crashed there a few years ago
Day Four - Mawenzi Tarn to Kibo Camp

While we could see the camp fro m afar, we did not get a sense of how high it was until we reached it. It felt like we had found the long lost and fabled, albeit, tent city of Shangri La. This place was a bustling hub of activity because a few of the trails come together there as the bas e camp for the summit assault. We arrived to a throng of porters, tents and people wearing North Face jackets, four -day old beards and a steady wind of about 25 miles an hour. We were directed to a hut where we had to check in by logging our details in a registry. From here our guides noticed our confused looks and led us to where our tents had been set up'¦ away from the crowds and out of the wind. I have no idea how they managed it, but we were extremely grateful they did.

We arrived tired from the walk. We sat down for lunch without much appetite around 12:30 p.m.. We were told to rest until dinner served at 5:30 p.m., after which we would have our daily briefing. This was one were eager to hear as it was going to be our summit briefing. We went back to our tents and did just that. On went the iPod again and I closed my eyes for a few hours.

By now we were definitely in the Alpine Desert Zone where we would only see the odd little shrub scattered about. Everything was rock or sand, and apparently when Hans Meyer made his ascent in 1889 there was still glacier on this part of the mountain. According to our guide, 'they' predicted that by 2025 the glacier will have disappeared forever from the mountain. At this altitude there was no surface water anywhere to be found, and any water we used for drinking, cooking or washing up was brought up from Mawenzi Camp.

Alpine Desert Zone   Alpine Desert Zone   Alpine Desert Zone

We awoke for dinner where we tried feeding ourselves the food that was served. It is easy to identify how the altitude is affecting our bod ies. Just a day or two ago we had voracious appetites from all the exercise, but now we could hardly manage a small serving.

After dinner Florence came in the tent and formally introduced us to our summit porter, Dayo. We were told that we would be 'woken up' at 11:00 p.m. for a quick meal of porridge and to get our stuff together to start our trek at 11:45 p.m. If we were taking Diamox, we needed to take some before we actually started the climb. 

We were also told that we should only bring the following essentias:
- 3 liters of water
- Chocolate or trail mix
- Sunglasses, sunscreen and lip balm
- 5-6 layers for your top half (including Gore -Tex)
- 4 layers for your bottom half, plus gaiters (for keeping rocks and scree out of your boots)
- 2 pairs of socks
- 2 warm hats, 2 pairs of gloves and hand -warmers
- Trekking poles
- Headlamp, camera and spare batteries for both

The reason for all those layers is because once we are up high if we get cold it would be much harder to warm up. If we started warm and stayed warm we would be ok, but if we got to the point where we were shaking uncontrollably from the cold'¦ that's an automatic one -way ticket back down to camp.

Group Check-in: Trenton was getting AMS and started taking his Diamox as his headache was persistent most of the day. Dana also started taking his altitude pills as he had a rough night the night before. Barry was ready to charge - no headaches and no signs of slowing down from the altitude. He decided to take Diamox before the midnight departure as a precautionary more than anything else. He had proved to be the strongest climber with the least amount of problems. I was doing ok at this point, just taking it step-by-step.
We all headed back to our tents early that evening to start any kind of 'getting ready' ritu al and laid down for a few more hours before our summit attempt to the Rooftop of Africa.

Total Time Walking: 5hrsDistance: 5.2miles (8.5km)
Elevation Min/Max: 14,161ft/15,437ft (4,316m/4,705m)
Elevation Gained: 1,276ft (389m)Weather: The weather was the most stable today. The sky was mostly sunny until we arrived into camp.

The average temperature during the walk was in the low 50s. On arrival into Kibo Camp the winds really picked up and quickly became over cast with the temperatures

Difficulty: Moderate. It was an easier day in terms of elevation gained, but at this altitude you are starting to feel some of the toll it is beginning to take on the body. It is a long day of walking.

Ian Flores - Tanzania

Day Five- Kibo Camp to Uhuru Peak to Horombo Camp
After dinner I headed to my tent and got partially dressed for both warmth and so that I wouldn't have to get dressed in the middle of the night. These were the kind of things that no one taught us, but learned quickly after a morning of getting out of that warm and comfortable sleeping bag in the tent and dressed in below-freezing temperatures.

Having laid down and rested somewhere between sleeping and waking states most of the time, I started hearing porters moving about. I looked at my iPod: 10:30 p.m. By the time some one came by my tent I was fully alert and already throwing the layers on and double checking my gear to make sure I don't forget anything vital like my camera.

We met up in the mess tent and look at the porridge in front of us with disdain. What seemed l ike a pretty tasty meal just a few days ago was looking as appealing as last week's leftovers. Before we started out I checked my pulse to see what my resting heart rate was: a steady 102 beats per minute. I managed to get some food down because I knew m y body would need the energy later. After that we were all suited up with more layers than I'ed ever worn. I was dressed in a thin Merino wool t -shirt, heavy merino wool thermal top layer, thick North Face fleece, very thick hooded sweatshirt and Gore -Tex jacket over that. With that, my warm hat, thick -fleeced hoodie, thick neck warmer, and two gloves. At this stage I felt more like the Michelin Man than human.

We actually started our walk close to 12:15 a.m. as we had some people who were having technical difficulties with their gear. Once we started out we could see that others had already started their trek by the trail of headlights. A group of 10 -12 headlamps were winding up the switchback trails and looked like a serpent of lights in the night. The te mperature was just above freezing.

Earlier we had made the decision as a group to try and summit together. The pace was excruciatingly slow. We were easily walking about 1mph or slower. Our guide purposely set the pace this slow to keep our heart rate dow n as much as possible to allow for slower breathing, but also to slowly acclimate as we went up the mountain.

As we climbed, Florence was like the pied piper as he sang some obscure tune that he looped over and over, never-ending, but guiding us up the mo untain, keeping our minds off the task. We slowly winded up step after step. After about an hour or so we stopped for a quick break. It felt like I could just stop and rest there for a long time, but our guide, the ever -watchful professional, made sure tha t we didn't stop for too long and cool down too quickly.

For a few hours all we saw in the dark was the person's pack in front of us, their shoes and the trail. If you did ever look up, you were quickly reminded of the daunting task that lay ahead. Those other climbers we had spotted earlier seemed like they were directly above us.

As the night wore on and the temperatures continued to drop we noticed that when we stopped our water was slowly turning to ice. My Camelbak was slowly freezing over. Even th e Nalgene bottles of water I had were turning into slushy ice water and the caps were freezing to the tops of them. Dana also had a Camelbak, but with an insulated tube, and had no issues with it. (I highly recommend this as you don't have to stop to take a drink; and prevents the water from freezing).

We continued into the night and whenever I looked up I saw The Mountain as something dark in the night, a shadow looming over us. The 'landmarks' we passed - Williams Point (5,000m), Hans Meyer Cave (5,150 m), and Jamaica Rocks (5,500m) seemed no different from each other in the dark. They were just a chance to rest for a bit before continuing on. During this long trek we began to see that this part of the hike as 80% mental and 20% physical. Tired and cold, all you have to say, 'I've had enough, please take me back down,' and that was end of your climb (if you wanted it to be). Florence and the other guides were continually encouraging us: 'Never give up!'

I counted about a half dozen climbers escorted down due to either altitude sickness, exhaustion or they they'd had enough: enough to end the summit attempt. When the sun finally broke the night, I could feel my spirits rising up with every moment. I reminded myself that at this altitude with every step up I took I was setting my all -time record for highest I had ever been on foot. Every time I wanted to stop or give up I kept thinking'¦ just one more step so I can set a new record for myself. Step after step.

I think we were all feeling the same thing once the sun came up because we started talking again. By the time we reached Gilman's Point (5,686m), we achieved a huge milestone. I can honestly say that anyone who reaches this sign should be proud of what they accomplished because this is definitely the hardest part of the climb. We were all ecstatic to reach this point, but were tired enough to find the closest rock to slump on. Dayo came by with some hot tea and a bar of chocolate.

Ian Flores - Tanzania

We were reevaluated both by ourselves and by the guide. I noticed th at when the guide had checked us for altitude sickness before, he checked the color of our tongues and our eyes. When he came over I stuck my tongue out and took off my glasses. It was almost as if I was looking for an excuse to be told I couldn't go on, but in the end he cleared me to go to the top and reassured me I could do it. 'Never give up.'

Barry the Bionic Bear was ready to charge. Dana had to convince the guide that he was good and after standing on one leg without falling down the mountain he was cleared. Trenton, on the other hand, had already made the decision that he had had enough and was going to head back down. However, if the three of us were going to summit then we weren't going to let him off that easily. It didn't take much convincing before we were gathering our gear for the final push. It was also around this time that we started noticing people coming back from their summit hike and noticed they were covered in snow, beards frozen over. There was even a girl who had icicles hanging from her eyelashes!

As soon as we crossed over the lip of the peak the reason was apparent. It felt like gale force winds were blowing at the top. We were walking with our heads down as snow flurries were whipping by. The wind was blowing so hard that ou r walking poles (an item that anyone attempting to climb should not do without) were being blown in the wind. Barry said he plays golf back home and it wasn't unusual to have 40 mph winds, and he reckons that these were between 50 -60 mph.

These conditions continued for the next two and hours as we made our ascent. Luckily by the time we had reached the summit the winds had died down. Then I heard someone utter the words, 'There it is.' Without looking up I knew what I was about to behold from the hundreds of others' pictures of their Kili climbs was the place where they came for that ultimate souvenir: a sign stating you are at the Rooftop of Africa, the highest place on the continent. The sign reads, ' Congratulations! You are now at Uhuru Peak, Tanzania, 5 895m AMSL. Africa's Highest Point - The world's highest freestanding mountain. One of the world's largest volcanoes. Welcome! ' It's covered in old stickers promoting restaurants, companies and other destinations around the globe, and looked as weathered as the mountain.

Africa's Highest Point  Africa's Highest Point

We were up there for about 25 minutes, but it felt like a blip as we snapped pics and congratulated each other, some with a swig of Bombay Sapphire's finest. By this time I could feel my brain starved for oxygen and so the only drivi ng thought in my head was to get off this mountain quickly!

Interesting fact: Did you know that there is 50% less oxygen available at this altitude than at sea level? With every step I took back down the mountain I could feel a difference. I quickened my pace to a slow trot and only stopped long enough to take in the first magnificent view since the sunrise the looming glacier, the last remnants of it at least. Within a few moments the clouds were rolling back in, protecting it in a blanket of snow. In retrospect I wish I would have taken a picture but the effort involved in stopping, unzipping my jacket, taking off my gloves and taking that pictures was far too great at that time. I got back to Gilman's in record time where Dayo and I waited as the others caught up. From here we started the descent down the scree for what I call a little Scree -skiing action. For the next hour and a half we skied down on our feet using the poles. About an hour into it I wished I'd been wiser in conserving energy coming back from Uhuru. For most, this would have been enough physical activity for a week, let alone a day. However, after an hour rest and lunch, we were packing up our gear and ready to start another 3 -4 hour hike to Horombo Camp. There's no two ways about It, this was a very long day.

The walk down from there was relaxed and we were all joking and enjoying the scenery  The walk down from there was relaxed and we were all joking and enjoying the scenery  The walk down from there was relaxed and we were all joking and enjoying the scenery
The walk down from there was relaxed and we were all joking and enjoying the scenery  The walk down from there was relaxed and we were all joking and enjoying the scenery  The walk down from there was relaxed and we were all joking and enjoying the scenery  The walk down from there was relaxed and we were all joking and enjoying the scenery

The walk down from there was relaxed and we were all joking and enjoying the scenery. We came down the Marangu Route as this is an Up and Down route whereas the Rongai is Up only. We arrived at camp tired and hungry. We ate, played cards and all had the best night's sleep imaginable. I don't imagine the Sultan of Brunei would have had a more comfortable night's sleep than any of us did that evening.

The next morning, while still cold, after a hearty breakfast we packed up our bags for the last time on the mountain. Then we had the absolute pleasure to witness what they call 'The Tipping Ceremony'. All the porters, guides and cook stood together and sang the Kilimanjaro song that would put any gospel choir to shame. They were so happy and some almost even seemed possessed. Afterwords, I said a few words thanking them for everything because without them we wouldn't have come anywhere near that peak.

Total Time Walking: 13-15hrs
Distance: 12 miles (19.3km)
Elevation Start/Max/Min: 15,437ft/19,341ft/ 12,204ft (4,705m/5,895m/3,720m)
Elevation Gained: 3,904ft (1,190m)
Elevation Loss (total): 7,137ft (2,175m)Weather: The night walk started off calm. The temperatures dropped well below freezing into the nig ht, and was coldest just before sunrise. The sunrise was clear and crisp. At the summit steady and strong winds blew blustery snow, and calmed down towards the peak. The walk from Kibo to Horombo was clear and temperatures rose steadily into the 50s until the evening.

Difficulty: Difficult. It was not a technical climb, but between the altitude and the overall duration of walking in a 24 hour period that I would rate this as the only difficult day of the trek.

Day Six -Horombo Camp to Marangu Gate
The last day we continued on another 5½ hour hike motivated by the thought of a hot shower and proper bed. We passed other climbers heading the opposite way. They looked so fresh and clean and full of optimism, heading into what was going to be an adventure they would never forget. As for us, we were coming off the ride relaxed and filled with so much good energy that it almost'¦ ALMOST felt like we could've turned around and climbed back up. Good luck to all of you who attempt it, and remember, it's 80% mental…… be prepared!

Total Time Walking: 5-6 hrs
Distance: 12.8 miles (20.6km)
Elevation Max/Min: 12,204ft/6,045ft (3,720m/1,143m)
Elevation Loss: 6,159ft (2,577m)Weather: As we descended into the tropical weather we were met with typical rainforest climate in that it was cool and a misty rain. There is a lot more moisture in the air and I was hiking in a t -shirt until it rained a little bit.

Difficulty: Easy. Long walk, all downhill. Again, remember to pace yourself for a long day of walking, but compared to t he previous day, it was a breeze.

The 25 th Anniversary Kili Crew      Barry the Bionic Bear
The 25 th Anniversary Kili Crew         /                         Barry the Bionic Bear

- by: Ian Carlo Flores

Trip Report for Kenya and Tanzania - Elia Valdovino and Anthony Rdcliff

Over the past two years, I have been reading trip report s from all of our clients. I always imagine myself in their place as they vividly describe their adventures and sightings. Not hing, and I mean nothing prepared me for my very own experience in the dark continent.

Our first overnight was in Nairobi. We were tired and in bad need of a shower. The drive to the hotel from the airport was a real eye opener. It was an amazing experience all on it's own. Never had I seen so many people , including young children and women walking alone in the streets at 11 pm at night. Not to mention police officers walking around with rifles in their hands. I asked our driver if there was a problem out in the street. He casually answer that 'no everybody is just on their way home from work'. Acuna Mattata-first time I heard that phrase outside of a Disney movie.

Trip Report for Kenya and Tanzania - Elia Valdovino and Anthony Rdcliff Trip Report for Kenya and Tanzania - Elia Valdovino and Anthony Rdcliff

The drive to the Masai Mara was long and extremely exhausting, but thanks to our traveling companions-an Aussie couple and a British Dad and daughter, made the long drive less strenuous. Our guide Stephan was a bit quiet and non talkative at first, but we quickly started joking with him and brought him out of his shell. The first Swahili words he taught me (at my request) were 'pole'¦pole', I found myself saying this on a daily basis. His answer was always 'Akuna Matata'.

On our very first afternoon game drive, the first animal we saw was a lioness!! Now I realized why our clients keep coming back over and over, the feeling of respect you get from being so close to such a magnificent creature is second to none.

We saw all the animals that were on our list, elephants, wildebeest, giraffes, zebra, lots of baboons, impalas and buffalo. In a way it kind of spoiled it for any future game drives as we found ourselves always comparing it to the Masai Mara.

Cheetahs on the bush Male lion in the bush

The one animal we did not see in the Masai , but were lucky enough to see in Lake Nakuru was the black rhino. Our game drive was cut short due to bad visibility and floods. Fortunately enough, seeing the black rhino made up for the bad weather and other expectations.

Black rhino in Nakuru

Amboseli is a true gem, from our room, we had a perfect view of Kilimanjaro, it was truly an amazing sight to see.. Her e we saw plenty of elephants and giraffes. We also had to be careful with the monkeys sneaking into our rooms, they were everywhere!

 Perfect view of Kilimanjaro from Amboseli

Lots of hugs, kisses and e -mail address were exchange at the end of this stay with our Aussie and British friends as we were all continuing in different directions.

We met Seif at the Nmanga border. From the very beginning I understood why he was AAC's Guide of the year for 2009. His passion, enthusiasm and knowledge of his country and job is extremely extensive. 

Lake Manyara was our first stop. Here we were charged by an angry elephant who did not wish to be followed as we h ad been doing. We saw countless of giraffes, baboons, impalas, wildebeest, and many, many beautiful birds.

Baboon in Lake Manyara Giraffe in Lake Manyara Lilac-breasted roller in Manyara

The drive to Serengeti was something to remember. We had given Seif the mission to find us some leopards as we only got a 2 second glimpse of one in the Masai Mara. He took this as a personal challenge. The highlight of this drive was the mating of lions! We spotted two sleeping lions near the road. It was truly an amazing experience seeing up close and personal what can only be seen on television.

Two sleeping lions in the Serengeti. Two sleeping lions in the Serengeti.

The game drive was great, we again saw many elephants, giraffes, and wildebeest and yes our sought after Leopard!!!

My itinerary also included a visit to a Masai Village and to an orphanage. The children were a delight. They sang for us and even invited us to join in their games.

Visit to a Masai Village and to an orphanage Visit to a Masai Village and to an orphanage

Anthony and I left Africa with a new found appreciation for nature, and much respect for the people. Their incredible strength is amazing. Even thru their poverty, they always manage a most sincere smile.
Up to now, we have been lucky to have had the opportunity to travel all over the Caribbean, South America and Mexico, but somehow I kn ow that out of the countless vacations Anthony and I have experienced, this particular trip will be the most memorable and most talked about.

- by: Elia Valdovino and Anthony Rdcliff

Lynne Glasgow - Tanzania 2008 - Report

Although I have had the opportunity to visit southern Africa on many occasions over the past 18 years, somehow I had never traveled to Tanzania, so it was with great excitement that I set off on the long journey from Fort Lauderdale to Arusha.

I had a comfortable sleep at Arusha Coffee Lodge and set off with my drive/guide, Seif, the next morning to Tarangire National Park. Seif was a fabulous guide. His knowledge of animal behavior opened my eyes to see beyond t he obvious, and he often re -positioned our vehicle for better photo shots. As we drove out of Arusha Seif explained the different tribes and their lifestyles, the cultivation and farming and how the development of tourism was having a beneficial impact on the local communities. The scenery was stunning, and we saw lots of elephant on the way to Tarangire Treetops - 20 tree rooms (1mile from end to end) each with views over the park. Wooden spiral stairs and hatch lead onto a platform access to your room. We took a sundowner drive to a hill with great views and enjoyed a display of Maasai dancing, followed by a night drive back to camp.

Elephant on the way to Tarangire Treetop Maasai dancing Tarangire Treetops - 20 tree room

The next day we stopped at Eunoto for lunch after an interesting journey through many Ma asai villages. We continued on to Lake Manyara National Park, where I was very lucky to see the famous tree-climbing lions on the way to Lake Manyara Tree Lodge which is located at the far end of the park. The lake is filled with lots of flamingoes and throughout the park the re is a lot of good game viewing - elephant, baboon, monkeys, hippo, lion.

Lion on the tree Camp in the bush Flamingos

From Lake Manyara we continued to the Ngorongoro Crater stopping at Mto Wa Mbu Village on the way. I popped in to see Gibb's Farm - lovely!

The drive up to the crater rim takes about 30 minutes from the entrance gate, and then the view below is stunning! I stayed at Crater Lodge - Wow! Chandeliers, butlers, views! The rooms are huge, with sitting area and fireplace, king -bed, huge bathroom with claw -foot bath and separate shower. Dinner was beautifully presented, and very tasty!

Lynne Glasgow - Tanzania 2008 Lynne Glasgow - Tanzania 2008 Lynne Glasgow - Tanzania 2008

In the morning we headed down into the Crater for some great game viewing!

After lunch, our journey continued into the Serengeti, and a drive down '˜lion alley' which lived up to its name. The next four days were spent visiting several lodges in the Serengeti, and seeing some fabulous animals as well! My night at the AAC shared semi permanent Camp on the edge of the Orangi River was a delightful experience, especially sharing game viewing stories with the other guests and guides.

Tented camp Huge Hippo on mud Male lion in the field

One of my favorite camps was Migration Camp - 20 tented rooms are all luxurious. There is a super sundowner deck, nice pool and inside or outside dining, weather depending. Best meal of the trip!

Safari vehicle Migration Camp Lynne Glasgow - Tanzania 2008

Tanzania was everything I expected and much more. The people are so friendly, accommodating and very happy! Although some roads are quite torturous, overall they were better than I expected. The tarred road from Lake Manyara to Ngorongor o is terrific and road improvements are being continuously made.

All the tented camps were great, and the general standard of food was very good, with the highlight being dinner at Migration Camp. Every visitor I met and chatted with (some first time others many time visitors) had only positive comments to make about the level of service, accommodation and game viewing.

- by: Lynne Glasgow

Mark Nolting in East Africa - Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda

On arrival in Africa, I had the pleasure of spending the night at the House of Waine, located in the suburb or Karen outside Nairobi. Set in beautiful gardens with a large heated swimming pool, this small luxury hotel is now my favorite place for guests to overnight before beginning their safaris in Kenya or flying to Tanzania.

  • After taking an hour scheduled flight by Mt. Kilimanjaro to the airport bearing the same name, I was transferred to Ndarakwai Camp, a small, personable permanent tented camp located on a 10,000 acre private reserve set on the slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro. The owner Peter Jones, the camp guide and I took an afternoon walk through the bush and encountered many herds of eland, along with other plains game. As the sun was going down, we walked to a Maasai Village located just outside of the reserve. The villagers were very welcoming - especially as our guide was Maasai and knew them all very well. Later we took a night drive. As night drives, walks and quality Maasai visits are not possible in the national parks, Ndarakwai should be considered as an add -on to a traditional safari. We feature this sustainable tourism and eco -conservation property in our Signature program Serengeti Unexplored Group Safari.

Mark Nolting in East Africa Mark Nolting in East Africa Mark Nolting in East Africa

I spent time in Arusha meeting up with all the guides who take our clients out on safari and where the guides of the year were announced - Omar Seif and Mohamed Rassul . I also visited Teneguru School for a formal present ation of a $5,000. 00 donation in partnership with Rotary - Fort Lauderdale

Mark Nolting in East Africa, meeting up with all the guides. Mark Nolting in East Africa, meeting up with all the guides.

I flew by a private charter flight to Shompole, located near Lake Natron and the Tanzanian border. The flight took me over Lake Magaadi with views of flamingo below.

Shompole is a small, luxury lodge set on a high ridge over looking a privat
e reserve. The units are architecturally spectacular, each with private plunge pools and surrounded by pools of water - the evaporation from which helps cool the air in this arid l and. (See our 15 Day Legends of Kenya Safari)

Shompole is a small, luxury lodge in Kenya Lake Magaadi in Kenya with views of flamingo Shompole is a small, luxury lodge in Kenya

This is one of the best reserves to see lesser kudu, and we were fortunate enough to see a number of herds, along with buffalo and other plains game. The night drive was very productive, with sightings of African wild cat, bat -eared fox, black-backed jackal, civet, large-spotted genet, and banded mongoose. We walked through a beautiful forest, and visited a small Maasai village where we were warmly received. This and Ndarakwai are two of the best places for Maasai visits I have experienced in East Africa !!!

Small Maasai village

Ol Donyo Wuas, located between Amboseli and West Tsavo national parks, was my next stop. The camp has been totally rebuilt to a five-star status. Each unit has a private plunge pool and rooftop observation deck where some guests spend the night to view the millions of stars that seem so close you could almost touch them. During my stay the waterhole in front of camp was dominated by elephant bearing some of the largest tusks I have seen in years.

The food, service and management of this camp are superb. Day and night game drives, quality escorted walks, and some of the best horseback riding available on the continent are offered. This is certainly one of Africa's best camps!

Ol Donyo Wuas received recognition as a finalist in the Tourism for Tomorrow Awards for the wildlife and tourism partnership with the local Maasai land community. The property is featured in our 10 Day Kenya Exclusive program.

Ol Donyo Wuas Ol Donyo Wuas

Campi Ya Kanzi, situated with a magnificent view of Mt, Kilimanjaro offer s an 'Out of Africa' experience at the beginning or end of your safari. Your hosts are Luca Belpietro and Antonella Bonomi and their brood of children. This is a very homely style of accommodations with hands on attention. His partnership with the local community has also been a successful conservation story in securing the future of the local wildlife. The property is featured in our 10 Day Kenya Exclusive program.

Mark Nolting in East Africa Mark Nolting in East Africa

Next - off to Rwanda! Kigali must be the cleanest city in Africa. There was no litter to be seen at all. Plastic bags are not allowed. Even along the roadsides I saw no litter whatsoever. We visited the Genocide Museum, which was very moving. I ran out of time to visit the local market and the

The 2.5 hour drive to Ruhengeri (Volcanoes National Park) was very scenic and beautiful. During the day there are always people walking along the road, riding or pushing bicycles often la den with banana or sorgum beer. We toured the market at Kinigi. There are many bicycle taxis and motorcycle taxis taking clients short distances in and near town.

Mark Nolting in East Africa

On arrival at Park Headquarters trekkers fill out a form including their ages. The driver/guides will have a short briefing with the chief warden when they request special groups or short/medium/long hikes. Trekkers are then separated according to the gorilla groups they will be visiting and given a briefing by their guides that lasts about 15 minutes. Trekkers then return to their vehicles and are driven to the departure points by their guides.

Our guides have a very good relationship with national parks, and because of that, they have a better chance than any other tour company of getting guests assigned to gorilla groups that are the level of difficulty that the clients request. Most travelers in good condition can trek to the close groups, as the guides take many rest breaks enroute. There is no rush to find the gorillas as you will have 1 hour with them regardless. Seven gorilla groups are visited by tourists and seven groups are visited by researchers. The Parks Department always sell 56 permits; if one of the tourist groups goes to the Congo or Uganda, then one of the research groups will be substituted.

Once at the departure point, trekkers are given a walking stick and assigned a porter if you wish to choose to have one, for a $10 tip.

Mark Nolting, gorilla trekking in Rwanda. Mark Nolting, gorilla trekking in Rwanda.

You hike to the stone wall marking the border of the park, which is designed to keep the buffalo and elephant in the park and to mark a clear border of the park for the people not to cross. After a gorilla etiquette briefing, you begin trekking. When you are getting close to the gorillas you leave your hiking sticks and backpacks and bring only cameras.

My first trek was to the Kwitonda Grou
p. It was a beautiful hike through cultivated fields. The guide stopped frequently to talk about the crops and other plants along the way. This gave the slower trekkers time to catch their breath and rest.

We were fortunate to encounter the group in fairly open areas with scattered sunlight. The group is made up of 17 individuals including one silverback. At one point I laid down on the forest floor and a baby approached several times within one meter. The guide said it was curious about my camera, and he kept chasing the baby gorillas away. The whole experience was exhilarating and was over in a flash.

Mark Nolting, gorilla trekking in Rwanda.

 Mark Nolting, gorilla trekking in Rwanda.
Mark Nolting, gorilla trekking in Rwanda.

The following morning we hiked to the Sabinyo Group, composed of nine individuals including the largest silverback in the park - Guhondo. He is getting quite old and was not too active , but the rest of the group was active indeed. This trek was longer than the first one, mostly through bamboo forests that we sometimes so dense we had to crawl through sections. Francois, our guide, worked with Diane Fossey. He was very entertaining as he would demonstrate what the gorillas eat by eating it himself. I tried the bamboo, which they say can make the gorillas a bit drunk, and it was quite sweet.

I stayed at the Sabinyo Silverback lodge- a five-star property with two guest suites, five cottages and one family complex and is definitely the best lodge in the region. During my time not trekking I made site inspections of Gorilla Nest Lodge, Gorilla Mounta in View Lodge, Volcanoes Virunga Lodge and a fifth new lodge that is coming on line (name still to be advised).

There is a cultural village near Kinigi that is worth a visit to get a good idea of the history and cultures of the area. Another attraction of Volcanoes National Park and Gisyeni area is that they have no mosquito es, and I encountered no flies anywhere.

We drove for 1.5 hours to Gisenyi, set on the shores of Lake Kivu. I overnighted at the Kivu Serena Hotel, which is set right on the lake with a private sandy beach, large swimming pool and attractive co
mmon areas. This was an enjoyable ending to my stay in Africa. Our 4-Day extension to Rwanda with two gorilla treks is featured in many of our combo trips.

A highlight was spending time with Francois - the highest ranking conservationist at Parc d u Volcanoes!
A highlight was spending time with Francois - the highest ranking conservationist at Parc d u Volcanoes!

- by: Mark Nolting

Kyle's Tanzania Trip Report – May 2007

My first safari to East Africa began with two nights at Ngong House in Nairobi. The first morning we toured the Giraffe Center, Karen Blixen Museum and the Daphne Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage. You can feed thegiraffe at center and they are much bigger close up!

Kyle's Tanzania Trip Report Ngong House in Nairobi

The next morning I departed by scheduled flight to Kilimanjaro, Tanzania. I was met by my guide Hillary Mandia and we drove to the Ngorongoro Crater.

My Guide HilaryElephant in Crater Shifting Sands
                          My Guide Hilary                                    Elephant in Crater / Shifting Sands

The next morning game drive began at 5:30am and we made it the gate by 6:00am. We were the only vehicle on the crater floor for about two hours. We exited the crater after about 4 hours and descended on the Serengeti Plains. The view from the crater rim to the Serengeti defies words. We made a side trip to the Shifting Sands and then onward to Kirawira Camp in the western corridor of the park.

We drove through pockets of the migrations at least three time – all of which we were the only vehicle around surrounded by wildebeest and zebra. One of the highlights of the Serengeti was the hot air balloon ride over the plains. The champagne bush breakfast at the end of the balloon ride was excellent.

Champagne Breakfast   Migration Kirawira Camp
             Champagne Breakfast                                       Migration                                          Kirawira Camp

From the Serengeti we drove to Lake Manyara and stayed at the Lake Manyara Serena - amazing views of  the lake below. The next morning we game drove through the park and passed through Mto Wa Mbu  village. The village is real slice of Africa. My last stop was Tarangire Park. I loved this park. Where else can  you unzip the front of your elevated tent and watch the sun go down over the Rift Valley Wall from the  comfort you bed – sherry in hand.

Lake Manyara Serena Mto Wa Mbu  Tarangire Treetops
            Lake Manyara Serena                                    Mto Wa Mbu                                    Tarangire Treetops

- by: Kyle Witten