Ngorongoro & Crater Highlands feedback

From: Clive Last
To: IntoAfrica UK Ltd
Subject: Feedback from our trip

Hi Chris
We really enjoyed talking to you when you came round. It helped us fix the trip in our memories. We are happy to provide references or to be contacted by any of your potential customers. Below is our response to our holiday for your use.

We would echo much that has been said by others who have been on the Kenyan safari. We looked at lots of safari companies looking for one that contributed to the local economy by employing local people, paying reasonable wages and sourcing everything locally. These aims are met by IntoAfrica. In addition they also support some of the local schools and projects.

We wanted to extend our African holiday following on from our Kenyan Safari. We discussed this with Chris (fortunately we live in Sheffield so we could go and see him) and we discussed some walking based on the Ngorongoro Conservation Area in Tanzania. As it transpired, this part of our trip was for the two of us only. IntoAfrica has the capacity to organise whatever you want from your trip.

Our week involved a half day in the Lake Manyara National Park, a short walk in the Endoro Forest before moving into the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. We stayed at Rhino Lodge close to the crater. We had a half day in the Crater. We then walked for a couple of hours around the crater rim through forests and with great views down into the crater.

Our other walks were more substantial down into the Empakaai Crater, up to the Olmoti Crater, we climbed Mount Makarot and a long walk around the Crater rim. The Mount Makarot walk was around 7 hours with about 800m of ascent. The views were stunning and varied. We finished across the Malanja Depression, this was a highlight for us. The longer Ngorongoro Crater rim walk about 5 and a half hours about 25km. This was at a steady pace suited to our fitness.

We felt that the first couple of shorter walk enabled our guide (Dennis Lyamuya) to assess our levels of fitness so that they were able to tailor the rest of the walks to our abilities. The Empakaai and Olmoti Crater and Mount Makarot walks involved some steady climbs. The first two fairly short but the latter quite a long climb. However, they were easily manageable for people who are used to hill walking.

Once the week had started, the programme was flexible and adjusted to both our tastes and ability. Originally our programme had involved a walk up Mount Oldeani with views over Lake Eyasi but this was changed for a walk around the Ngorongoro Crater rim walk as this would offer more variety.

One of the things we particularly liked about the walking was being on the ground rather than in a vehicle. It was much more exciting to see animals, albeit in the distance, when you're on foot. Walking meant that you went through villages and amongst local people going about their day to day business; going to tend bee hives, returning from the market, taking cattle to water and for women, the relentless task of gathering firewood and collecting water. As with our experience on our Kenyan safari, the guide's knowledge was extensive and also specific to the area we were in so that we learned about local village life and wildlife.

Interestingly, walkers in the area are obliged to have an armed ranger accompany them. This is for protection against animals. Our ranger was very friendly and also had lots of local knowledge. Walking in an environment like this does have an element of danger but you feel entirely safe having the guide and ranger alongside. They were both very careful and conscious of our safety, wellbeing and enjoyment at all times.

Finally, we would recommend a visit to Shanga Shangaa in Arusha which provides employment for about 55 disabled adults – a great place to but locally produced souvenirs.

Thanks again

Clive and Barbara Last

From: Anke Snow, IS-NA, AOSOLA
To: 'IntoAfrica UK Ltd'
Subject: RE: feedback

Hi Chris,
Oh, where should I begin? In a nutshell, we had a marvellous time! Sorry....this is going to be long.

Our first day we went out with Kassim, Willy and Elias. We only spent about 2 days with Kassim in the Ngorongoro Crater, so we didn't get a chance to know him too well. However, he and Willy did find us a lot of great wildlife down there......lions on a kill, hyena & jackal fighting over a dead flamingo, bat-eared fox, black rhino, and an enormous bull elephant - I'd never seen ivory that big before. We were just starting to get attached when Dennis took his place. We were sad at first, but really, how could you not love Dennis! Risking quite a few nasty bites, he jumped out of the Landcruiser to pull a twig off a whistling thorn acacia to show us how the ants colonize the little swellings. On the way back from Oldupai Gorge, he spotted us a leopard!!! We heard his low, gutteral snarl just before he dashed off. I couldn't believe how fast that cat could run. I've been very lucky - saw a leopard in Kenya before, too.

At Nainokanoka, Dennis picked up a local Maasai guide, John, who took us up Olmoti. It was a beutiful hike. We were caught in quite the deluge when we reached the falls and on the way down, slipping and sliding, but we were having a blast. Next day, of course, we walked to Empakaai. Phew! What a hike that was! You just don't grasp the vastness of the land, even with a point of reference like a herd of wildebeest or the Maasai school off in the distance. I thought it would never end... but it was well worth it. We caught sight of an African wild cat on the way. In the home stretch I swore I was doing nothing the next day excpet eat and sleep, but then as we reached Empakaai's rim and I glimpsed the sapphire lake below, peppered with pink flamingos, I figured I couldn't miss out on seeing this up close. At dinner one night, Dennis showed us a couple of snapshots of your Maasai wedding! Your wife was a beautiful bride, and you certainly couldn't have looked happier. He also told us the story of how he met you and got started with IntoAfrica. Dennis does have a lot of integrity and pride in what he does. He's also quite funny. Every now and again we passed a group of black-clad young Maasai on their way to manhood, bouncing at the Landcruiser on the side of the road, hoping for payment in return for their entertainment. Dennis would just pshaw them and roll his eyes. I think he disapproved of them turning their traditions and customs into a side show for money.

I wasn't convinced I wanted to walk to Engaruka..... Really only the first 1/8 of the journey is through the rainforest. Then the landscape turns to Maasai farmland, and then rocky, sandy soil dotted with acacias. It got hot on that last leg of the trek, we felt as if we were staring into a hot oven. We each had our camelbacks filled with 3 litres of water, but Leslie actually ran out. Dennis and John had to carry our packs for us in the home stretch. I thought there would be a bit more forest and less blasting furnace.

At Engaruka, we promptly limped off the the cool, inviting water rushing from the escarpment and took a long bath. Aaaaahhhhhh! What a relief. (I think we would have liked to have been warned more thoroughly about the lack of facilities in many of the camps, but after the inital shock of not being able to bathe regularly, we got by just fine.) The next day, all we did was lie around in the shade and wash some clothes. That heat (at the bottom of the escarpment) really sucks the energy right out of you. Dennis left us that morning, and we were joined by David. By the following day, we had enough energy to go off and explore the Engaruka ruins with the local Maasai guide who calls himself Israel. He then accompanied us to the camp at Natron as he would be climbing Lengai with us.

Natron was also quite hot. When we arrived about midday, I had to actually get in the tent to rest. I was burning through the dappled shade of the trees. The second night it rained which cooled things off nicely. We didn't want to climb Lengai in the rain (recalling the deluge at Olmoti) so we put it off a day in hopes of better weather. Our prayers were answered, and on the following night we got up at 10:30pm, drove out to the base of Lengai, and began our ascent just after midnight. It was David, Israel, Willy, Leslie & I. It took us just under 5 hours to reach the top. Pretty good, I think. I expected I'd take 6 or more. It truly is an other worldly experience up there. It was still dark when we reached the top, so we just took a little nap until the sun came up. We could hear and feel the mountain rumbling beneath us, and we saw periodic sprays of red hot lava shoot from the largest cone in the crater. At daybreak, Israel ran down a narrow trail into the crater with a devil-may-care attitude and said, "We can go in now!" He said he'd been up there 6 times now, but he was clearly as thrilled as we were. On the opposite side we watched the sun rise with a crystal clear view of Kili. (Sadly, my friend Bernie would summit Kili the next day in a blizzard.) We headed down about 8:00am, and it took us just as long to get down as it did going up. It really is killer on the knees and big toes. After we got back to camp, I took off my hiking shoes and didn't put them back on until a week later.

We were looking forward to seeing more animals in Manyara. I had read about the tree-climbing lions, but David cautioned they were sometimes difficult to see. Nevertheless, I told him I felt lucky, what with the leopard and all. Sure enough, we saw them. There was a great male in a tree just by the road. Willy, the driver, also spotted a lioness in a tree quite a distance away. He has absolutely the most amazing eyes of anyone I have ever known. He saw the rhinos in Ngorongoro from so far away, I still couldn't make them out with my binocs. He found absolutely all the animals we saw, except the leopard. Even a crab in a creek, and a small turtle. Willy would point off into the distance and blurt out something like, "Three black-backed jackals, two male, one female." He could spot a giraffe through 10 trees, and identify exactly what kind of bird that little black spec was. When we got closer, sure enough, he was dead on. Willy also taught us a lot of Swahili (well, a lot for us). He told us a lot of stories and really made us laugh. It was really great having him with us the whole trip. If (or should I say when) I go again, I would certainly request to have Willy along. You really have an amazing person on your staff in this man.

And of course, how could I forget Elias. Although we could have done with a little more protein, he kept us well fed throughout. We especially enjoyed his soups. Every night, a bowl of scrumptious soup before the main course. It was a bit disconcerting when he appeared on the first day wearing a McDonald's shirt (not really, just hella funny!). My other favorite was his breakfast "omelette" (a little egg thingy he made with shaved carrots). Sounds odd, maybe, but soooo yummy!

We really will miss all your crew (our boys). We felt more as if we were traveling with friends than that they were our guides, driver and cook. They are such a personable bunch. We laughed a lot with them (and at each other). We promised to send them lots of pics and a few other goodies. If you like, I can e-mail you a few jpegs. Not sure how you do with attachments in e-mail, but let me know if you'd like some.

Thanks for the trip of a lifetime! (Or hopefully a few more times in my lifetime.)
Cheers, rafiki!


P.S. - Please feel free to post any of these comments on your website.
Anke Snow, SOLA International

From: "Flanner"
Subject: Re: feedback

Dear IntoAfrica,
Our Tanzania adventure was also spectacular. I was really glad that we worked in the Serengeti as it was FULL of wildlife. Your suggestion of limiting it to a couple of days was perfect. Elias was like manna from heaven and a joy to be with. We always looked forward to his meals. Dennis was also very good but not at the level of Sammy [Mt Kenya guide]. I don't say that to be critical but just to let you know our impressions. Dennis takes his position seriously, obviously has studied and is continuing to become more expert.

Although in some ways the Highlands Crater trek lacked the "spectacularness" of Mount Kenya or the Serengeti, it turned out to be exactly what we were looking for. I really enjoyed the feeling that we were walking the same trails as the local Maasai and getting a good feeling for the land. If I could make a suggestion, it would be for Dennis to be a bit more proactive in telling about what we were seeing.

I'd like to see you do a stronger job of communicating your mission up front to potential clients. My interpretation of "fair traded" was that you offered fairly priced trips. Obviously IntoAfrica stands for much more than that. The page on your website which describes your company ethics communicates your corporate philosophy but I think you should make a bigger issue of it. It is what distinguishes you from dozens (hundreds?) of other companies. Maybe the phrase "fair traded" means more in England than here. Anyway, your corporate mission is a very admirable and compelling one and the passion expressed by the various staff is impressive. Anything you can do to make sure a potential client understands will only help increase business.

Again, we really had a fantastic trip and I thank you for patiently working it all out with me. Let me know if I can clarify any of my comments or be of further help.


From: Irving L. Broudy
Subject: Broudy Crater Highlands safari

Dear Chris:
Jet lag is beginning to fade as is the long list of things waiting to be done on our return, so we are now able to give you the feedback on our trip that we promised. Overall, it was a truly extraordinary adventure that we both thoroughly enjoyed. Seeing the wildlife in their natural habitat and the sweeping lovely high plateau and mountains of East Africa was an experience that neither of us will ever forget.

As we mentioned in our previous short note, Kevin Mlay was an excellent guide and more. He was helpful and accommodating and very flexible, clearly conveying his desire to make sure that we were happy with our activities. His enthusiasm for birding was infectious. We learned a lot. He seemed to be enjoying seeing the wildlife, particularly the birds, as much as we did. Having a knowledgeable guide who really took pleasure in his work enhanced our own enjoyment and appreciation of what we were seeing. We could not have hoped for a better guide than Kevin. He was terrific! Ronald, the driver, also seemed to like what he was doing and was kind and accommodating. He was also a good driver, who inspired confidence. We also had a cook, Dennis, with us for part of the time. He was a good fellow, and a good cook.

We are very glad that we included the trek in the Crater Highlands, the cultural walk in Mto wa-Mbu and a really memorable visit with the bushmen at Lake Eyasi. As you suggested when we were planning the trip, viewing wildlife for long stretches confined to a vehicle and bouncing around dusty roads can be tiring. After 6 days of game viewing, we were (especially Irv) feeling constrained by Land Cruiser. Getting an opportunity to stretch our legs and experience the country more directly was very important to our overall enjoyment of the trip.

The trek could have been a bit better planned. The road was impassable mid-way beyond Olimoto Crater so we had to camp the first night at a spot that was not particularly scenic. We took an afternoon walk but didn't have enough time to get up to the rim of the Empakaii crater and back to the campsite. The next morning, after some negotiation with local Masai, we hired some donkeys who took our gear up to the top of Empakaii and we trekked a different route, planning to climb up to the crater, descend and then return to the top.. The ranger didn't appear to be very familiar with the area and the information from the local Masai guide was unclear so we didn't have a firm understanding of how long we would need to hike. Not knowing how long the trek would be, Gloria got concerned (after about 6 hours of walking) as we descended into the Crater that she might have difficulty getting back to our camp whose location was unclear. As a result, we turned back after descending 3/4 of the way and didn't get to see wildlife at the bottom. However, the return turned out to be much shorter than we expected and the campsite was at a beautiful location right on the rim. So we enjoyed a magnificent sunset, views of Ol Doinyo Lengai, Kilimanjaro, and the shadows of the clouds racing across the lake at the bottom of the crater. It was a magical spot. Wish we could have spent both nights there!

Much of our trekking was through high grasslands either without any defined paths, or with paths below the grass and not visible. That was difficult for us. It may be also true that we overestimated our stamina -- it was a good thing that we didn't attempt to do Lengai!

Lake Eyasi was a very nice and very different sequel to the Crater Highlands. We camped in lush area on the lake next to the feeding grounds of some hippos. We had a great meal -- fresh caught fish - taught each other some card games and drank some beer. The next morning, we went on a hunt with bushmen that was just incredible. Watching them hunt with crude bows and bring down small birds at 20 meters through bushes, then start a fire, cook and eat the birds where they dropped was an unforgettable experience.

All the Sopa lodges were very nice, especially Tarangire. The Lake Manyara Lodge was rather seedy and run down. Would not recommend using it. We understand from others and the guides that Kirikuru Tented Camp is much nicer and closer to the town than the Lake Manyara Lodge was. We had a great time and would (in fact, have already) recommend IntoAfrica to others. You can quote us on that ! We are also agreeable to contacts by email from prospective clients who would like to learn what our experience was like.

Best wishes, and thanks.

Gloria and Irv Broudy

From: "Gian Quaglieni"
To: "Chris Morris"
Subject: Re: Tanz safari

Dear Chris,
Thanks for your e-mail - we were going to e-mail you tonight, anyway. We're not usually the organized trip types - however, I can't think of many better people to be with than Emmy, Robert, Cokan, Dennis and Dixon. We thought your staff were superb: knowledgable, resourceful and above all friendly, charming and a very good laugh.

The hotels were generally higher standard than we expected - apart from the Wildlife Lodge in Ngorogoro - where the food was good, the accommodation was acceptable although stone cold but the service was downright nonchalant. Their check-in and front desk were terse; hospitality seemed last on their list of priorities. Robert even waited half an hour for his breakfast!

It was very special indeed to get away from what crowds there were in the Crater Highlands - although we had not packed enough warm stuff [probably our own fault]. It did seem very cold - and even colder apparently on the Crater Rim: that's until Dennis lit the charcoal fire at the campsite - and then everything was very fine indeed. I would emphasise this special coldness in your desciptions of kit to take - we had three jumpers between us - thermal underwear and a walking jacket would have been better. Even so, camping was the most superb experience - even if not quite where we originally planned.

It was good that Robert was capable of flexible planning - we liked that and thought that was a positive bonus - we really felt we were doing what we wanted to do - and that he had a good sense of what that was. Cokan is a very special person - really charming and a good driver - and a positive bonus that he speaks Maasai as well. Emmy is superb fun and a very good first contact. The walking safari with Dixon was good fun and very informative.

We always expect problems like the air ticket cancellation when we travel in places like Tanzania - but I was frankly stunned by the speed and efficiency that you and Emmy sorted it out. We were filled with amazing admiration and felt so special - a feeling which carried on throughout our time with your team. I would advise anyone - even people who prefer independent travel, to choose you. Very good value for money even in an obviously expensive environment to travel, priceless experiences made more so by your team.

So thanks very much indeed - and if you want any more details about our feelings - write back. We actually feel - along with our last week in Zanzibar this was the best holiday either of us has ever had! One day we'll be back for the climb up Kili!

Best wishes,
Gian and Sabina

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