21-Day African Safari and Cruise

November--December 1998
by Grant C. Vogel

On the cruise

Saturday, Nov. 21
We left Los Angeles airport at 3 p.m. Flew to Frankfurt, Germany. a ten- and-a-half hour flight, got there about 10:30 a.m. on the 22nd. Left Frankfurt about 1 p.m., an 8-hour flight to Nairobi, Kenya. Got to the Hilton hotel about 11:30 p.m. The hotel was okay but not like you'd expect, being a Hilton. Nothing like the hotels in China.

Monday, Nov. 23
After a good night's rest, about 9:30 went on a tour of the city. After we got back I went to the supermarket and bought a bottle of water and milk, also bought a few bananas and oranges.

Tuesday, Nov. 24
This morning we left for Amboseli, a four-hour drive from Nairobi, to the Amboseli national park and Serena Lodge. We saw some animals on the way to the lodge. We checked in at the lodge. It was quite nice; this was the best lodge in the area I am told. After lunch about 4 p.m. we went on a game drive. We saw elephants, lots of zebras, lots of gazelles, guinea fowl and other animals.

Wednesday, Nov. 25
We had breakfast at 6:15, and left for a game drive at 7:15. We saw lots of animals, saw our first lions this morning on our way to Tsavo national park. At noon we checked in at the Kilaguni Lodge and had lunch. Our room was quite rustic and old but in a beautiful area. Lots of trees, a lake close by to watch the animals come to drink, mountains quite near. At 4 p.m. another game drive, all kinds of animals. Dinner at 7:30. It had rained off and on this afternoon and there were mosquito nets over our beds so we slept under a net. This was a first for us.

Thursday, Nov. 26, Thanksgiving Day.
It rained quite hard during the night, and it sure was nice in the morning. We had breakfast at 6:30, at 7:30 a game drive. the last chance to see wildlife as after lunch we head for Mombasa and the ship, the Marco Polo. At 7:30 a.m. we started the game drive, did not see much the first hour. Then we saw impala, giraffes, guinea fowl, lots of zebras, and others. Lunch at 11:30 back at the lodge, checkout and departure for Mombasa. Some of the roads in the park had quite a few potholes. After we got out of the park we soon came onto the main highway that goes from Nairobi to Mombasa. I thought we would have a nice road, but it was so bad, with lots of trucks and buses, it should have been closed. It was a two lane blacktop road but it was all potholes and big ones at that. We had to go around them from one side of the road to the other, and sometimes even had to drive in the ditch. The potholes were so bad on the road and the ditch was not much better. Well, we made it to Mombasa and the Marco Polo. It sure looked good and would be our home for the next 15 days. We checked in, there was no red tape, and within 5 minutes we were in our room. Our luggage was in our room, a nice room with a nice 3 by 4 foot window, so we unpacked our suitcases and it was time for 6:30 turkey dinner. Dinner is always good. After dinner we went back to our cabin and were tired so we went to bed early.

Friday, Nov 27
We did not take a tour today, just wanted to take it easy and rest after three days of safari and that terrible ride yesterday. There was a shuttle to downtown. I went downtown and walked around, even visited a Hindu temple, took a few pictures there, did not buy anything. Mombasa is the largest city in Kenya and has the largest port in east Africa. Mombasa docks service not only Kenya but also Uganda and Burundi. Mombasa has about a half million people, everything from luxury hotels and good shopping, to hordes of beggars.

Sat., Nov. 28.
Today we are at Zanzibar Island, Tanzania. At 8 a.m. we went for a 4- hour town and spice tour. As soon as we got out of town everything was lush and green. tropical, quite warm and humid. Lots of coconut trees, looked like most were 30 to 40 feet high. Banana trees, coffee trees, and all kinds of spices. With all this beauty it still looks like a poor country. The roads were very good here. We visited an old church and a mission, and an old fort. Had some rain here. It seems to rain often; that is why it is so lush and green. About noon, back to the ship, had lunch, back to our room and rested for about an hour. Then we visited a large market which covered at least a block square. mostly fish and vegetables and always lots of souvenirs. We went to the shopping center by shuttle. We had expected to see large stores but it was all small vendors with most everything on the ground or on tables. Lots of fruit and vegetables; across the street were shoes, clothing and all kinds of merchandise. Tonight dinner is informal; men have to wear a jacket and a tie. I had forgotten to bring a tie from home. I had to go a long way to find a tie. At each stall that had men's shirts I would ask if they had ties, they would say no and point down farther. Another vendor he said he had ties. He had a whole stack of new shirts all covered in plastic. At last he found a shirt that had a tie with it, so he took the tie and handed it to me. A very nice tie. The label said it was handmade. I asked him how much, he said five dollars, I said one dollar, he acted as if I was trying to steal it, then he came down to four. I said one, he said four, then I said two, he said three, I said no, two and pretended to walk away. He said ok, two. So I got a nice tie for two dollars. I think a tie like this would be at least ten dollars in the U.S. Tonight after dinner we expect to meet a couple to play pinochle. We had put up a notice in the card room and library that we were looking for someone that liked to play pinochle. This couple phoned us, their names are Irene and Wally. After dinner we went to the card room and met them. We played two games. They are nice and we agreed to play again tomorrow at one p.m.

Nov. 29.
At sea all day, nothing much to do but relax, eat, read, etc. At one p.m. we met Wally and Irene again. They played pinochle a little differently than we do with two couples. They use two decks and count meld quite different so we played it their way. It was a lot of fun.

Nov. 30.
Today we were at the island of Mayotte, one of a group of many islands, all lush and green, very tropical. The ship had to anchor out a ways from the island. To get to Mayotte we had to take a tender (lifeboat) to a small island, and then take a ferry to the larger island. French is the language, very little English, and most of the shops will not use U.S. money. We tried to get and send email, but had no luck. Some I am sure had it. After about an hour back to the ship, ferry and tender and home just in time for lunch. After lunch back to our room and took a nap, don't know why, I just felt like it. Later teatime and visited with a couple from England.

There are about 300 from Europe on this cruise. Most cruises, 90 percent are from the U.S. This one, only about 50 percent. There are some from other countries such as Canada, Australia, etc. At 6:30 dinner. We were at a table for 8. Art and Mary from Sydney, Hy and Fay Schwartz from Florida, Hoke and Julia from Atlanta, Georgia. This evening everyone was feeling good, much story telling and laughing, like a group of good friends. We had a good dinner as usual. We went to bed quite early. Nancy is feeling better, she was under the weather two weeks at home before we started on our vacation.

Tuesday, Dec. 1
Nosy Kamba, Madagascar. Today's tour was quite interesting and different. The ship had to anchor quite a long way from the beach that we were going to. The tenders took us most of the way, about a block from the beach. There we were taken to the beach on a quite large 250-person rubber boat (Zodiac landing craft) to make a wet landing. We had to wade the last ten to fifteen feet. Same coming back. Once on the beach we were escorted to Lemur Park, to visit the black lemurs (monkeys). On our way we passed lots of vendors selling table cloths, blouses, shirts, and many regular items sold at all shops in Africa. It was tropical and quite warm and humid. We got back about noon. Wet feet, sandy and warm. We took showers and put on dry clothes and off to a barbeque lunch. Also had all the regular lunch if you wanted it. Back to the cabin and took a nap. I dried my shoes with a hair dryer in the bathroom. Most of the people wore thongs or went barefooted in the water, but I wore my shoes on the wet landing. At 6:45 dinner, very good, casual dress, no tie or jacket required, after a one-and-a-half-hour dinner went home, and soon to bed. We sure eat a lot and sleep a lot.

Wednesday, Dec. 2
At sea all day. Dress is informal tonight, jacket and tie required. Every day I walk for over half an hour and do quite a bit of walking during the day, never use the elevator. using the stairs all day, being at sea. I do some visiting with others. I did visit the navigation area after lunch, played pinochle with Wally and Irene, did some reading; again. dinner for an hour and a half, and bed quite early.

Thursday, December 3
At sea going south all the time. I thought it would be cooler, but this morning it was still warm. The sun was out. After a dish of cereal and a glass of orange juice I took my half-hour walk. Because of it being warm and humid my clothes were soaking wet. This would be a good way to lose some weight. I took a shower and put on dry clothes and Nancy and I went for breakfast. We visited with Art and Mary from Australia. By the time we got back to the cabin it was all cleaned up. About ten a.m. the wind came up and the sea got choppy. The boat was going up and down and swaying sideways. It was quite rough. Not as bad as when we were in China but bad enough that quite a few got sick. They closed down all but two of the elevators. At dinner time only about half of the people made it to dinner. We made out okay. The weather was still quite bad in the morning, but it improved quite a bit by noon of the next day. We were at sea all day. did some reading, played pinochle, listened to a lecture about Africa. The weather has improved and most of the people were at dinner tonight.

Saturday, December 5
This morning we get to Durban, South Africa. The weather is nice. At 8:45 we went for a 4-hour city tour. Durban is a large modern city, good roads, big interesting buildings, no two alike. We saw quite a bit of the city, stopped at Howard College, which had nice grounds and botanical gardens. There was a lake in the gardens, and in the lake there were trees that were covered with birds, ibises, some nesting, others standing around. Then we spent quite a bit of time at a huge market. It seems that for miles there were sidewalk merchants' stands all over. We got back to the ship at 1:30, had lunch, called our friends, made a 3 p.m. appointment to play pinochle.

Dec. 6
At sea all day. A relaxing day, ate a lot, played some pinochle, after dinner went to the show. The first time we went to the show on this trip.

Monday, December 7
Pearl Harbor Day. Today we were at Plattenberg bay. No dock, so we had to take tenders most of the way to the shore. Then we got on a boat that took us right up on the shore. It would go real fast and slide far enough so we did not have to get our feet wet. Then they pulled the boat with a tractor on the beach on a sort of a boat trailer, then with the tractor turned it around to head out to sea, then with a long pole from the front of the tractor to the back of the boat and trailer. After the boat was loaded the tractor would push the boat into the sea where it could float off the trailer and the boat would take the people back to the tender. After many trips taking about 40 each time the tender would take a load back to the ship. This was all part of a four-hour tour of an area nice and green and we were told that this is the only area of Africa that gets rain year round. Most of Africa has a wet and a dry season. This is the first time a cruise ship ever stopped here, and they were not very well organized. This area is between Durban and Cape Town. Tomorrow we get to Cape Town, will be there for a few days, and Thursday our plane leaves for home.

December 8
On the way to Cape Town, expect to get there about noon. We just passed the Cape of Good Hope where the sea is always choppy. It was a little bit rough as we came near Cape Town. I took some pictures of Table Mountain and Cape Town. Docked about 1 p.m. We already had lunch. Our 1:30 tour started about 2 p.m., quite a nice city tour, saw lots of the city, spent about an hour at a museum and official gardens. Drove up to Signal Hill. What a view of Cape Town and Table Mountain! Took several pictures, got back to the ship before 6 p.m. Tonight is formal dress so had better start getting dressed as it's past 6 p.m. We had a nice dinner and after dinner we went to a show.

Wednesday, December 9
This is our last full day in Africa. Tomorrow our plane leaves at 6 p.m. After breakfast at 8:30 we went on a four-hour tour called "Villages, Vineyards and Views." Cape Town is a large beautiful city, three million people, with mountains all around. Our tour was great. This is perhaps the most beautiful area in the world. Thousands of acres of grapes, some on the slopes of the mountains. We visited a huge winery, then Kirstenbosch Gardens, huge grounds, lots of trees, flowers, lawns, everything perfect. Lots of big homes in the area, some on large lots up to two acres. Good roads, weather was great. Tonight we have to pack, get our suitcases out by midnight. We leave the ship tomorrow at 3 p.m. for the airport. Our plane leaves about 6 p.m.

Thursday, December 10
We and another couple, Hoke and Julia (dinner partners) went to a new shopping area this morning, a nice new area, but we did not see anything we wanted. We got back to the ship at 11 a.m., had lunch at noon, finished our packing of our hand luggage. At 3 p.m. we put our luggage on the bus and were off to the airport, a twenty minute ride. Took about ten minutes to check in. We went to the lounge as we had about two hours until flight time, took off about 6 p.m. for Frankfurt, Germany. Made a one-hour stop at Johannesburg, changed flight crew and restocked the plane. About ten a half hours to Frankfurt, four hours layover, to leave 11 a.m. (Frankfurt time) for Los Angeles Had a nice lounge in the Frankfurt airport to wait. The flight to L.A. was an 11-hour flight. There was some delay, seems that the caterers were late bringing the food onto the plane, so we were about 40 minutes late leaving the terminal. The plane taxied to the runway and stopped. Other planes were going around us and taking off. Seems the holdup was because one radar station that tracked international flights had a problem. After a long wait we took off about two hours late. The plane was a nice 747-400. Quite new I think. We had a good flight and were wined and dined all the way to L.A. we got in L.A. one hour late. Donna was at the airport and brought us home. A little tired, it was about 38 hours since we left the ship. Both of us slept quite a bit on the plane. We made it and as always even after a very interesting trip it's nice to get home.

Grant C. Vogel

(To read Nancy's impressions, click here.)