Three Days in Tonga

My island hop adventure has taken me from Hawaii, to American Samoa, to Samoa, and now Tonga. I knew nothing of Tonga prior to making my reservations. After browsing my Pacific Island travel guide, I learned the people are devout Christians and island doesn’t cater much to tourists. Not knowing what to expect, I was a little nervous about visiting, especially via Talofa Airways.

LET’S GO

Safari in the Masai Mara – Day 3

Morning Game Drive

On our third day in the Masai Mara National Reserve, we arose for another sunrise game drive with breakfast scheduled upon our return.  Always in need of food, I grabbed a hard-boiled egg for the 2-hour ride which could be longer if we stumbled across something cool.

GO ON SAFARI
mama and baby leopard in the Masai Mara

Safari in the Masai Mara – Day 2

On our second day in the Masai Mara, our wake-up call, complete with coffee delivered to our rooms, came early.  It was still dark as we walked toward the jeep, thus the night watchman escorted us from our tents.  I asked if he saw any wild animals overnight, and he said he chased away some elephants.  Hmm, I don’t think I’d like that job. Hey enraged elephant and lurking leopard, shoo!  It was hard enough to keep the monkeys from visiting our tents.  More on that later.

GO ON SAFARI
cub playing with mama's tail in the Masai Mara

Safari in the Masai Mara – Day 1

So nine years ago, almost to the day, I went on a safari in Tanzania with some friends.  It had always been on my bucket list, but I would never sign up to go because I was afraid it wouldn’t meet my expectations if I didn’t see everything I’d hoped to see.

Our trip included driving from Arusha to Tarangire to Manyara to Ngorongoro Crater and to the Serengeti.  We literally saw just about all Africa had to offer: A cheetah kill an impala, a lion hunt, the wildebeest cross the river, the big five including the rare black rhino, and even three of the small five (which I didn’t know there was such a thing).

It was such an amazing experience that I have turned down Rootie’s invites to go on safaris ever since as I didn’t think it could be topped.  Then I realized, the safari in Tanzania was my all-time favorite trip, so why not go back.  And go back I did, this time to the Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya with Mike, Rootie, Rozy, Jake, and Martha.

GO ON SAFARI
elephant with sandy face

Orphan Elephants at Umani Springs

About Umani Springs

In a previous post about Nairobi, I mentioned the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust whose mission is to promote the conservation, preservation, and protection of wildlife and habitats across Kenya.  It is best known for its work with elephants by operating the most successful orphan elephant rescue and rehabilitation program in the world.

The Sheldrick Wildlife Trust houses the orphans at four locations: Nairobi Nursery, Ithumba Reintigration Unit, Voi Reintigration Unit, and Umani Springs Reintigration Unit.  It is possible to stay at the units.  As such, our group of six; Mike, Rootie, Rozy, Jake, Marty and I rented out Umani Springs for two days.

VISIT ELEPHANTS …
gorilla munching on leaves in rwanda

Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda

How to Get to Rwanda

While on safari in Kenya, we took a side trip to Rwanda for two days to see the mountain gorillas.  RwandAir offered a 5am departure from the Nairobi to Kigali, the capital of Rwanda. 

The domestic portion of Nairobi’s airport isn’t anything to write home about. There was a bathroom without toilet paper, one café, and a small waiting area in the terminal.  The gate area required extra security, and once inside water and toilets were unavailable.

GO GORILLA TREKKING …
fishing harbor with panama city skyline

Two and a Half Days in Panama City

I found a cheap flight to Panama, so I picked up a Lonely Plant guide and figured out a week’s itinerary…three days in Panama City and three days in Boquete.  Aside from the Panama Canal, I hadn’t heard much about the country, so I went with guarded expectations.  I was pleasantly surprised.

I found the wonderful Latin America culture coupled with some American conveniences such as safe drinking water, easy and cheap Uber rides, excellent food, and US currency.  To me, this was perfect!

EXPLORE!
remnants of barracks at Auschwitz

Six Hour Tour of Auschwitz

When visiting Krakow, seeing Auschwitz is a must.  Auschwitz, a complex of 48 concentration and extermination camps, was operated by Nazi Germany in occupied Poland during World War II.  The complex includes Auschwitz I, Auschwitz II-Birkenau, and Auschwitz III-Monowitz along with several subcamps.

Auschwitz was the largest Nazi German concentration and death camp.  Between the years 1940 and 1945 when Auschwitz operated, the Nazis deported at least 1.3 million people to the camp, including 1,000,000 Jews, 150,000 Poles, 23,000 gypsies, 15,000 Soviet POWs, and 25,000 prisoners of other ethnicities.  Of these prisoners, 1,100,000 died.  90% were Jewish.  Most were killed in gas chambers, but many also died from illnesses and starvation.

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1-ton salt cylinder at Wieliczka Salt Mine

The Wieliczka Salt Mine

Ever since I heard about the Wieliczka Salt Mine from my friend Ron, I have wanted to visit it.  I am fascinated by mines and Wieliczka Salt Mine is definitely the most unique mine I’ve seen.

Tour Options

While preparing to visit the mine, I reviewed its website and was surprised to find there are a variety of tours from which to choose.  I ruled out the 30-minute Graduation Tower visit that includes breathing a brine mist above ground as well as the Pilgrim Tour that concentrates on praying throughout the 2.5-hour mine tour.

GO MINING!