In the summer of 2012, we started planning our long-dreamed of African adventure with our travel companions, Frances and HN. Frances located ADS on the internet, and despite concerns about their reviews being too good to be true, we booked our photo safari through Sharon at ADS’s US office. We opted for a mix of tented luxury camps and lodges for our 12 day safari. Sharon was extremely helpful in planning the trip and making the arrangements. We flew KLM to Arusha (Kilimanjaro) airport and arrived tired but excited on May 2. We were met at the airport and whisked through Tanzanian immigration without delay. The ADS meet and greet team picked us up and transported us to our hotel in Arusha for a pre-safari briefing and a night’s sleep in the luxurious Mt. Meru Hotel.
The following morning, we flew to the Grumeti airstrip in the northwest Serengeti where we met our driver/guide, Maiko George. We started on our first game drive with Maiko and saw croc’s and hippo’s in the Grumeti River, impala, topi, a lioness, colobus monkeys, and warthogs before we’d driven a mile or two. Continuing on, we saw Cape buffalo, zebras, giraffes, baboons,ostriches and all manner of beautiful birds before arriving at the Kirawira Tented lodge for our first night in the field. Our accommodations were luxurious and the food and service were 5-star.
We thought we might have peaked on our first day’s game drive, but we were so mistaken. Each of the following eleven days seemed to best the previous days with up close and personal sightings of lions, leopards, giraffes, wildebeest, zebras, elephants, cheetahs, buffalo, black rhinos, Grants and Thompsons gazelles, eland, jackals, hippos, hyenas, and the most incredible variety of birds.
Traveling at the end of the rainy season and before the start of the high season was perfect. We encountered just a few other safari vehicles at each locale, and never seemed to be crowded or in competition with them. At Kirawira, Mbuzi Mawe, and Lake Masek camps and at The Plantation, we were the only guests and were treated to royal service.
Maiko, our so-named Alpha Guide, was an expert at spotting, positioning us, and identifying all animals, birds, trees, and flowers. He consistently put us on animals before other safari guides who seemed happy to follow his lead. He was helpful to the extreme as he organized every step of our lodging arrangements and daily game drives. He had box breakfasts with coffee and tea, and boxed lunches with cold drinks as needed for our game drives. He made sure that our dietary restrictions were satisfied.
Our safari vehicle was spotless inside and out each morning. We’re certain he got to bed late and had to rise early to take care of details, but he kept his energy level and sense of humor throughout. Our final view of Maiko was him waving us goodbye through the window at the airport as we proceeded through immigration and security for our flight home.
So we, at the risk of writing another too-good-to be-true review, join the list of others in sounding the praises of ADS. This safari was the trip of a lifetime and exceeded our expectations in every respect from start to finish.
Carol and Bob B.
Lake Jackson, Texas
Safari Dates: May 2, 2013 to May 13, 2013
H. N. and Frances B.
Safari Dates: May 2, 2013 to May 13, 2013
There are no words to describe this experience; it’s just that, an experience not a trip…..
Try to image sitting in the middle of over 5000 migrating wildebeest, watching a mother cheetah teach her 4 cubs how to hunt, observing the behavior of a pride of lions, the adventure of trying to find lion cubs that are only a few weeks old and being a foot away from a year old cheetah cub playing on your vehicle, “talking” to a Rhino to get him to move closer. If you can imagine this, try experiencing it!
On our first day, we spotted a leopard, much to our surprise we got to watch a chase, not a normal kill chase, but a baboon chasing the leopard away. Seeing the baboon run and jump through the tall grass was a site you just can’t explain. One minute the leopard was trying to hide in a small tree then next the baboon was in that same tree with the leopard nowhere in sight. As we moved on, we came across some black face monkeys that just couldn’t resist stealing a cookie from inside our vehicle. Only took a few seconds, he was in and out, smiling at us holding the cookie.
Watching 250+ hippos in the hippo pool get settled for their day long soak, seeing them yawn, fight and maneuver into a perfect spot for the day, with the added bonus of a few babies keeping close to their mothers. At the end of day 4 we came across a large pride of lions (10), we patiently watched the cubs doing their best to share or steal the meal away from dad, until mom came in and “told” him to share. This is not an experience you will see in a zoo; you really get the true experience of animal behavior and interactions with each other. As the each day happened, we were more amazing with each new encounter. Following a cheetah family, mom with 4 cubs, as they were out hunting and finding the same family the next day to have one of the cubs jump up on our vehicle and having a little fun with the car antenna, along with a quick look in the sun roof before our guide shooed him away.
On our last game drive, we still needed to complete our Big 5, with the Rhino. Early morning we saw 3, but they were pretty far away, as we searched throughout the day, we finally was giving it one last look, we another one was spotted. Once again it was far away, just not as far as the morning ones. With a little patience, and a little “talking” to him, he started to move closer and closer and closer to us, 50-75 feet close. It completed the final game drive in a very special way.
As our experience came to an end, we were asked what our favorite part was, we didn’t have an answer, each day and encounter was very unique and holds a special place in our hearts.
We cannot say enough about our guide Pokea, there was never a question that he wasn’t able to answer, as hard as we tried to stump him. He truly made the trip that much more enjoyable, between all the laughing and knowledge sharing, we were truly with a one of a kind person, who we are happy to call our friend! We miss you!!!
This was truly an experience of a lifetime, even when it happens again, it could never ever be the same, can’t wait for my next experience with ADS. Thanks to Sharon for our wonderful itinerary and the rest of the ADS team that made this a trip we cannot stop talking about.
Mark, Priscilla and Brandy “buibui” W.
Round Lake, Illinois
Safari Dates: April 25, 2013 to May 1, 2013
This was the trip of a lifetime. After numerous conversations about what exactly my husband and I wanted, Lynn put together a trip that included everything we requested and more including Claud, the perfect guide for us. We originally planned the trip for late May but had a change in plans. Lynn assured us that by going the last week of April/May we were going at her favorite time of the year, at the end of the rainy season where everything is lush and green. She was absolutely correct — the weather was perfect 80F and sunny everyday.
Transportation: The KLM flights from Detroit to Kilamanjaro were wonderful. Excellent service, decent food and timely. Mathias was waiting at the airport and walked us effortlessly through customs. We spent an extra day in Arusha and Mathias and Trevor were great tour guides– we really enjoyed our time with them. The flight from Arusha to Seronera was breathtaking. Flying low over the plains, valleys and mountains gave us a feel for the vastness of the Senengeti.
Lodging: Mt. Meru is a very classy hotel, staff was accommodating and food was good. At the Mbuzi Mawe Tented Lodge we were introduced to the “bush”. While being escorted to our room, a troupe of 20+ baboons came chattering by. A little startled we realized that we were really in the “bush.” Micheal was our bartender and our waiter and service was impeccable and the room was super. Second lodge, Ndutu Lodge had beautiful views, great food, nice gift shop and good location. Last night we stayed at the Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge on the crater. It was magnificent! At least four stars if not five. Breathtaking views !! Loved all our lodging.
Safari: Every day brought new and exciting adventures. Early rising got us to the important viewing sites in time to see recent kills with lions feasting on their well earned prey. Claud seemed to be able to find whatever we asked for – four lion prides, one with three females
and seven cubs ranging in age from approx. two weeks old to two months.
We even got to see a male and female lion greet each other with a big hug ! Our viewing of the cheetah mom and her four cubs chase down a wildebeest, make the kill, and enjoy the feast was incredible but when they all came over to the vehicle, bloody faces and all, to lay in the shade it was a dream come true. At the crater we really wanted to see the black rhino. Claud explained usually you only see them from a distance, but his excellent vision enabled us to get within 10 feet of a black rhino who let us take our pictures but them stamped her feet and started toward the vehicle. Claud assured us it was time to leave ! I don’t think there is anything we didn’t see. Leopard, baboons, elephants, hippos, several types of monkeys, giraffes, servel cat – I can go on and on. Claud located everything we wanted and more.
About Claud – Wonderful person. Very intelligent, knowledgeable not only of Tanzania but also of the world in general. When you spend seven days with someone conversation can get stale. But not with Claud. Conversation was always informative and fun for both him and us. He got along very well with other drivers and they seemed to appreciate his willingness to share information on our sightings. If we were to return, we would definitely request him as a guide.
We saw other groups six and nine people in the van. For the extra cost, it was well worth our private safari. Room to move around to see both sides of the vehicle and space to move around.
Nancy and Bill H.
Rome, New York
April 23, 2013 to April 29, 2013