Asante sana to ADS and especially Dawn for tailoring our safari July 7 to July 19. Dawn set us up at camps and tented lodges rather than the larger lodges because of our history of backpacking and bareboat chartering. We were very pleased and highly recommend our accommodations at Serengeti Bushtops Camp, Migration Tented Lodge, Seronera Sametu Camp, and Lions Paw Camp at Ngorongoro Crater. They all truly exceeded our expectations.
The crater was magical…early morning drive with clouds pouring over the rim…a Jurassic Park with the “big 5”…doesn’t get any better than that! Our last stop was at the Ngorongoro Manor Lodge, a stunning setting on a coffee plantation. We would suggest staying there extra nights if time allows. The staff at each location was very attentive and personable and our guide Petro Meena was not only knowledgeable but just a blast in making it all happen. He even loaned his Nikon to one of our party after a malfunction on the first game drive.
To start we spent a few extra days in Amsterdam to acclimate to the time change which we all found very helpful. Then after a night in Arusha at the Mount Meru Resort we were off to the Mara River Airstrip where we joined our guide Petro. Within 15 minutes we were surrounded by giraffe, elephant, hippo, gazelle, and witnessed two Mara River crossings by zebra and wildebeest…100+ pic’s in the first hour and over 2000 during the next 10 days plus multiple videos and GoPro shots using a 3’ extender from ground level while on drive.
I used the little pocket Canon Power Shot and the Wi-Fi ready Canon 70D with the 100-400mm white lens which gave me the option to back up RAW photos to my email account daily…very convenient. After all of the hype about big cameras and cumbersome zoom lenses do not forget to use your iPhone for panorama shots. Some of my best were with the phone.
We are already thinking about our next ADS trip at a different time of year to see the calving in the green season and experience other locations on the beautiful Serengeti.
Matakwa bora and asante sana to ADS, Dawn and Petro. You are the greatest!
A.L. and Terri B., Daron and Debra S., Judie and Doug M.
Safari Dates: July 7, 2014 to July 19, 2014
With three other couples, we traveled to Africa to see the Serengeti and see what Africa had to offer. With Africa Dreams Safari (ADS), we found the best tour company Africa had to offer! This was our first trip to Africa and our personal trip began a little earlier than the other couples because we went to see the Mountain Gorillas near Kigali, Rwanda. I mention this because the recommendation that ADS provided as to how we would meet up with the other couples in the middle of the Serengeti was outstanding and showed the depth of knowledge ADS has about Africa. The Coastal Air connections ADS suggested went exactly as planned–it was definitely a unique experience with the pilot meeting us outside security, walking us through security and immigration to the plane, and then helping us stash our baggage before “she” flew us on to our destination!
Our ADS adventure began at Kogatende (Mara River), a small dirt airstrip where we were met by our ADS guides, Anglebert and Elson. It did not take long for us to realize what superb guides they were! Our adventure began, after a picnic lunch and a patient wait, with literally thousands of Wildebeests plunging into the river for the Great Migration! To actually see the crossing from just a few meters away and to hear the sounds of these magnificent animals as they swam for their lives was phenomenal.
We divided our group between two vehicles. We rearranged ourselves each day so we traveled with each member of our group and all had the advantage of both guides. One of the days, we split with the women in one vehicle and men in the other! The guides drew straws to see who got who! Our guides were knowledgeable and made every day fun and educational.
Anglebert and Elson taught us how to look for animals hidden in the bush. And they found so many we might have overlooked! They taught us to wait patiently, quietly, so that we could observe behaviors that we never expected to see. You don’t really know how much the guides tell you is to make you happy and how much is fact, but they seemed to enjoy our group. I believe we were very low maintenance and simply followed their suggestions they said benefited not only us but them–even when they advised us that we should get up very early in the morning to begin our day’s trek—it really makes sense because of the animals sleeping to avoid the mid-day heat.
We saw Elephants grazing and knocking down the Acacia trees, honeymooning Lions, several Hippo pools, the elusive Dik-Dik and Klipspringer, Zebras, Hyenas, Warthogs, Thomson and Grant’s Gazelles, Giraffes, Leopards and Cheetahs with their kills, Waterbucks, Elands, Topis, a Rhino with her baby, and so much more! And the birds—what can you say! Everything went amazingly to plan and we got to experience everything we were supposed to and more. The guides said that we were very fortunate to see the Rhino and her baby and a Caracal cat as these are a rarity. To say we saw so much more than we ever expected is no exaggeration and we quickly ran out of superlatives to describe our adventures.
Additionally, our accommodations, ranging from exclusive and luxurious at Serengeti Bushtops Camp and Ngorongoro Manor Lodge to more rustic at Seronera Sametu and Ngorongoro Lions’s Paw Tented Camp were wonderful and had excellent staff! At each, we were met by management with small towels to wipe off the grime of the day, quickly followed by a small pick-me-up to stave off our thirst until we could get to the bar which had a nice variety of beverages. Tent camping with real beds, hot showers (including the ones where hot water was delivered to a gravity shower), absolutely excellent! This coupled with the opportunity to watch a sunrise or a sunset followed by a display of stars unaffected by city lights is an experience not to be missed.
The recommended side trip off the Serengeti to Buffalo Springs Luxury Camp allowed a several hour Night Game drive so we could experience dusk becoming night and view the animals that came out at night–a lioness on a hunt, a Crested Porcupine, and although we had seen leopards earlier in the trip, we got to watch one tearing into its recently killed prey while poised in the top of a tree. The next day featured a visit to a Masai village and was extremely interesting in terms of the insight provided into the life and culture of this African group.
The only mildly negative thing we could say concerned the Buffalo Springs facility which really didn’t quite match up to the rest of them in two respects. I fully understand why (the night ride) we wanted to be out of the park and that ride was excellent. The initial problem was solely one of our perceptions of what management should be like. It had nothing to do with the facility or the non-management staff. The person we later found was the manager seemed totally disengaged and seemed to care less whether we were there or no. We initially thought he was a boyfriend or another visitor but later found out that he was the manager. The rest of the staff was great. The night we arrived it was quite windy and unfortunately because of the location of the tents on the mountainside, the tents were quite noisy which could not be helped, but bothered some couples. Apparently there was also an issue with regard to getting water for the night ride but we were not part of that so cannot speak to it.
All in all it was an absolutely fantastic trip. I do not know how we could have improved what we did and saw and we greatly appreciate the knowledge and experience provided by ADS that allowed this adventure to happen. Kudos to ADS—we recommend them highly.
Jerry and Katherine W.
West Monroe, Louisiana
Safari Dates: August 15, 2014 to August 24, 2014
Our safari couldn’t get any better than this! That’s what we declared at the end of each day only to be delightedly proven wrong. For 12 days, our schedule was filled, either viewing or participating in one amazing adventure after another. We welcomed our beds each night to wake up before dawn with anticipation of what a new day would bring. And, we were never disappointed.
Like many before us that have embarked on a journey to Tanzania, ours started nearly a year-and-a-half ago by sorting through the information provided online from the many safari companies. We were quickly able to cull the list to a select few that seemed to offer what we were looking for in terms of service and lodgings. After communicating through emails and phone conversations with all of these remaining companies on our list, it was clear that African Dream Safaris was the right fit for our needs. It was the responsiveness of Dawn Anderson that sealed the deal, who was nothing less than spectacular with her knowledgeable guidance and timeliness in thoroughly answering all questions, no matter how mundane the subject.
Our first stop was in the Northern Serengeti. After landing, our two families (four adults and three children ages 10, 11, and 13) met our guides Ellson and Russell. Within a few feet from the Kogatende Airstrip, we began our journey, one of seemingly nonstop viewing of animals. Before stopping for our first box lunch, we had already seen impala,Thompson’s gazelle, zebra, hyena, warthog, nile crocodile, hippo, vultures attending to a wildebeest carcass and an abbreviated wildebeest crossing of the Mara River. By the end of the day, we were able to mark down 26 animal species along with a number of different birds. We also gained incredible respect for Ellson and Russell and their depth of knowledge of everything Serengeti.
While in the central Serengeti, we took a balloon excursion recommended by Dawn Anderson. We awoke at 4:15 in the morning with the hopes that the ride would be worth the early rising. And it was. We felt privileged to be able to enjoy a vantage point that most don’t get the chance to see. It was amazing to see the tops of the acacia where vultures were nesting, hippos actually running, the balloon basket scattering a herd of Thompson’s gazelles and Cape buffalo close and personal. We touched down near Moru Kopjes where we enjoyed a champagne toast and an English breakfast under the canopy of a towering acacia tree.
I could not write this without mentioning our visit with the Hadza tribe. We woke up early to hunt down the Hadzabe, a nomadic hunter-gatherer tribe we understood was living in the Lake Eyasi region, where it is estimated that just 1000-1500 exist. On this morning we visited a group numbering 20-25, bringing them food saved from our collective lunch boxes, nuts and candies. We didn’t know what to expect, but had hoped to see how they hunt and understand their way of living, and maybe find some mutual commonality. Boy, did we get that and more!…It sure wasn’t Disney.
I have to admit I was a little intimated and initially didn’t know whether we were welcome there or not. We learned their greeting and shook their hand. The size and strength of their hands left me hoping even more that they were a friendly bunch. Not to be worried. After a little time around the fire making some arrows, the younger warriors got up and went out to hunt food. They walked fast and we ambled as gracefully as a bunch of city people do amongst the brambles and acacia bushes set out to grab hair and any clothing items that come near enough for them to ensnare.
They found their kill, then proceeded to begin the process of making fire. It was then that their mood lightened as they sat there and cooked their parrots and squirrels over the fire. They offered out to our group with a couple of the more adventurous eaters who sampled. They have made a conscious choice to stay true to customs of their tribe for reasons that only they can understand. It is a hard life that they live and I can’t fathom how they are able to endure the day-to-day, however, for now they continue to do so.
There are so many highlights and I can’t really go into too much detail with ever having the hopes of finishing this letter, so I will simply list some of them here below:
- A lioness moving her 4-5 day old cubs from one hiding spot to another and having to cross the road immediately in front of our truck.
- ‘Cat day’, where we saw a leopard walking across the plains to cross the road directly in front of our car and comfortably sit down on the road next to us, a cheetah kill a Thompson’s gazelle, two serval and plenty of lions.
- Watching a lion and lioness pair prepare to attack an injured wildebeest. Seeing the amusing human-like dynamics play out between the lion and the lioness as he realizes that the lioness is not doing her job of hunting and he is left to unsuccessfully make the attempt.
- Traveling across the open plains then stopping to watch a large herd of elephants and the enjoying baby elephants playing like children.
- After a long journey to Ngorongoro crater, spotting a rhinoceros. Then, waking up early to be the first in the park (staying a Lion’s Paw is the best way to arrive early) and finding another rhinoceros, then watching and appreciating the expertise of Ellson to anticipate the movements of this allusive creature in order to gain the best view.
- Waking up in the morning to the sound of lions calling right outside the tent.
- Russell spotting an impala on the ground in the brush giving birth. A concerned giraffe comes over to help, scaring the impala away and causing her to run away mid-birth.
- That ‘aha’ moment when we understood the carrion animals and their much appreciated job as janitors of the Serengeti while watching a massive group of vultures feeding on a zebra that perished on the side of the road. I remember the immense patience of Russell while he patiently explained the hierarchy of the vultures and their specialized functions so that I can record it in my journal.
I couldn’t imagine a better trip (other than being able to witness a larger wildebeest river crossing) and the time spent in Tanzania will always be remembered as one of the best adventure vacations ever. There is a saying in Tanzania, which is “You come here for the animals, but you come back for the people.” This is the truest of true statements about Tanzania and also of ADS.
Our many thanks to Dawn Anderson who helped us get there; Michael, Kikoti and the other ground team in Arusha; to the men who could write the book on professionalism Russell and Ellson, our drivers and friends for a lifetime; and to Jonas at Seronera Sametu Camp and Edward at Lion’s Paw Camp, who kept us in hot water and fed us some of the most appropriate and delicious meals.
I’ve never been so impressed with a company that are intertwined so prevalently with our travel memories. It is also our first experience where the company continues to stay in contact with us after our return. Asante Sana ADS for a trip of a lifetime!
Peter, Allison and Zachary V.
Boca Raton, Florida
Safari Dates: July 29 – August 9, 2014