Truly A Bucket List Vacation

Well, after a long, very long trip back home, we are finally re-adjusted and have assimilated everything we had experienced and as we begin to share our experiences with everyone, the excitement continues to build as if we were still on our wonderful trip.

First of all, a very big thank you to Sharon for arranging a wonderful itinerary. We wanted to experience a diversified safari and that is exactly what she planned for us. We had planned a 10 day safari in addition to a 2 night stay in Arusha. We stayed at Sametu Camp for 3 nights, Lake Masek for 3 nights, Lion’s Paw for 2 nights and The Manor for 1 night. We actually were the only guests at Sametu, Lion’s Paw and The Manor which was quite nice because we got to ‘mingle’ with the wonderful people who made our stay at their camp so comfortable and enjoyable.

Upon arriving in Kilimanjaro, we were greeted and taken to Meru Resort where we were briefed with all the information we needed to begin our journey. We enjoyed a room service snack and got to bed as soon as possible so we could begin our next day exploring Arusha. We toured the Poli Village and did some shopping at the Cultural Heritage shop.

We had a lovely buffet dinner at Meru Resort and then up to our room to start the separating of our luggage to meet the 33# weight limit for the plane ride into the Serengeti (we put the non-essentials in our carry-on bags and left them with the ADS representatives to be retrieved for our return trip back home).

After breakfast we shared a ride to the airport with another couple that had just arrived the night before. After our luggage was cleared for the 33 pound weight limit (whew!) we, along with a few more passengers, took off for the Serengeti. Our plane ride to the Seronera Airstrip was a beautiful experience that gave us a taste of what to expect.

We landed and met our guide, Raphael who turned out to be absolutely fantastic. I know, I have read, that everyone thinks their guide was the best and that probably is very true but Raphael not only did his job of making sure we saw ‘everything’ we had hoped to see and taught us so much about all the animals and birds and trees, his company, his humor, his Tanzanian outlook on life was so very special. Fortunately, we have many pictures so that we will never forget him.

On our game drive from the airstrip to Sametu Camp we saw 34 species of animals and/or birds. We had a little rain that cleared up quickly and then a beautiful rainbow. Amazing! The next day we began our game drive at 6:00 am; we saw an additional 19 new animals and/or birds but had not seen a giraffe. Raphael assured us we would see some the next day but just as we were coming to Sametu Camp, there they were and actually, there was a giraffe ‘in’ our camp eating a tree next to the tent next to ours along with a couple elephants just roaming around.

And every day, thereafter, we continued to see something new. We saw cheetahs, rhinos, impalas, gazelles, dik diks, hippos, buffalo, baboons, lizards, crocodiles, jackals – we saw practically everything there was to see. We saw a leopard up in a tree eating his kill while another leopard and a hyena waited patiently for some sharing; not exactly any sharing going on, just an accidental drop of a leg and a piece of meat that was quickly taken away.

We saw a mother lion with her cubs playing with her and its siblings. Wildebeests were in masses everywhere. We watched a Dung Beetle roll the dung into a perfectly formed ball with her eggs inside for nourishment that she later buried for protection. We witnessed the mating of lions, elephants and monkeys. We watched a Crowned Crane (one of our favorite birds) court his beloved in a beautiful display of prancing and wing flapping. Even though there were so many pregnant zebras, we unfortunately did not see a birth; but we did see many baby zebra running and playing.

We watched a lion just about 15 feet from our vehicle eating a zebra with about 8 hyenas waiting patiently for the remains. We also waited patiently, 1 ½ hours, for the lion to relinquish the zebra to the hyenas so we could see how they can totally devour an animal, bones and all, in just a few minutes but the lion was proving that he was the ‘king of the jungle’ and just sat next to the zebra and rested in between his feasting.

We even tried to persuade him to leave but he was ever so smart, he just grabbed the neck of the zebra and pulled it another 4-5 feet away from us and actually did that one more time for an additional 4-5 feet away from us. We never did get to see the hyenas in action that day, but the next day we did witness a wildebeest being consumed by about 14 hyenas in minutes. Not a trace left.

We could go on and on about our safari adventure; the box breakfasts and lunches, the tasty dinners, especially the soups, the 40 liter showers, the bumpy roads, the changeable but beautiful weather in the distance, the Maasi Village visit, the scenery, the beautiful sunsets, the magnificent star filled night sky, the accommodations and not to forget all the wonderful, joyful Tanzanian people.

Africa Dream Safaris delivered everything we could have hoped for, from the very first emailed we received back from our initial inquiry to their last welcome home email and call. It truly was a ‘bucket list’ vacation with many life changing moments to carry throughout one’s life. We are so grateful that we were able to make Tanzania a part of our life memories. ASANTE SANA!

Rae Marie and Richard P.
Middleburg Heights, Ohio
Safari Dates: March 21, 2014 to March 30, 2014

Our Private Safari With ADS.

Asante Sana to you Sharon for helping us with the most amazing trip of a lifetime. Below is a few of our highlights.

We arrived in Kilimanjaro late on March 11th and were met and greeted by the team of Martius and Timan who whisked us through customs quickly. The team drove us to Mount Meru and did our check in, gave us instructions (and gifts), and made sure we had all our questions answered.

The next day they drove us throughout Arusha shopping and sightseeing. We spent time at St. Judes learning about the school and meeting some of the children who were having recess while we were visiting. Thank you ADS for helping these students.

The next day the team drove us to the airport and we flew into the central Serengeti. There we met Emanuel, or Ema to us, and he would spent the next 10 days teaching us so much about wildlife and fauna we would encounter. Everyone seems to think their driver guide is the best and we think they are all wrong and ours is!

Thank you (asante sana) Ema for your sense of humor, your patience with us and our millions of questions, for going around the rain showers, and most of all showing us your country you know so well. We arrived our first night at Seronera Sametu Camp in the pouring rain. The staff met us with umbrellas and we had arrived at our first stop. Ema loaned us his flip flops so we would not get muddy. The staff prepared and carried our supper that night, to our tent so we would not have to get muddy going to the dinning tent.

They also carried breakfast and lunch the next day. Sometimes they made five or more trips to our tent for one meal. This was the first of so many times staff made us feel like royalty. The attention and consideration shown to us at all camps we visited was phenomenal. All staff, from the Managers to the Maasai Warriors, spoke some English and we soon learned some Swahili.

The next camp on our adventure was Lake Masek and again were greeted with great staff, great food, and a great tent. Veronica, asante for your sense of humor and the care you took of my husband. Kusini tented lodge was probably my favorite, at least their food was the best. Our picnic lunches were more than anyone could ever eat and so much to choose from. I especially loved the bathtub and the complementary laundry where the clothing were hung in the sun to dry.

Lion Paw was next for our tented camp stay. If you want a small camp surrounded by jungle and very private tent, this is for you. We were only there one night and then onward to our first and only lodge (Ngorongoro Manor Lodge). This was just what we needed for a break from the tents and a bit of quietness away from the bush music and into the rose gardens and beautiful walkways. The flower petals placed around the bathroom were lovely, another first for me. Margaret, my sister’s name, laughed with us and made us feel like she could have been my sister, not only in name. She said to tell you hello, Sharon.

Our last lodge was Swala, my husbands favorite. What an amazing experience they gave us. Eating remarkable dinners out under the stars in the middle of an Impala herd. We sat on our porch and watched the Impala babies play with the monkeys keeping us company. The places we stayed and the incredible staff is only the beginning of all my highlights.

The wildlife was exquisite and everywhere. We watched cheetahs chasing gazelles, we chose not to watch any kills but had the opportunity several times, lions mating, cheetah and lion babies playing, dung beetles rolling, wildebeests and zebras everywhere. We saw too many different kinds of Antelope to mention. Monkeys, a couple of varieties, baboons including a Troup of hundreds.

Lions, leopards both on the ground and in trees, eight lions in one tree. Hippos in and out of the water, Black Rhinos, many giraffes including a herd of about 50 together. We saw probably 400 elephants in one day in Tarangire. Cape buffalo chasing a lion pride. Hyenas in and out of mud holes. Mongoose ran across the road and we got a glimpse of an African Wild Cat running into its burrow, we saw all four kinds of Jackal and bat eared fox. We were not lucky enough to see the wild dogs but almost everything else mentioned in our itinerary.

Our hot air balloon ride across the Serengeti will always be remembered. We had another prospective of the animals from new angles as our pilot rose high and low several times across the Serengeti. We were in the air almost one and a half hours landing on the road, drank champagne then headed to a spot in the bush for a delicious breakfast where the food was good and the champagne flowed freely. The areas we ate our lunches were beautiful some private with only our guide and ourselves eating, others were picnic areas with others enjoying them. In one of these areas my husband and a monkey got into a tug of war with one of our containers. Our trusty guide saw this and laughingly rescued my husband. One of the nicest surprises, we were never too far from a toilet. Some were squatters but were private.

I’ve only touched on a few of our wonderful highlights and I am so glad we decided to go with ADS. I saw other crowded vehicles with other groups and watched the people some shooting pictures others looking bored to death. I talked with others from different groups on the plane and we decided that all and all I had the best safari with the best adventure for about the same amount of money and ours was private and theirs was not.

Thank you Sharon for suggesting March for my adventure, it was a great time to go. Would I go again? In a heart beat. Would I recommend it to a friend? Absolutely! I am sharing a few pictures of my over 1000 taken. Hope they are enjoyed.

Mike O. and Connie C.
Port Charlotte, Florida
March 11 thru March 23, 2014

A Dream Come True

It has always been a dream of mine, since I was a child, to visit Africa. I would tell friends “if I could go anywhere, I would love to go on an African Photo Safari”. Well…… my husband was listening. One day about a year and a half ago, he gave me a small stuffed lion toy and a travel book on African Safari’s, and told me to start planning. And believe me, I began my research that day!!!

Luckily, I came upon the Africa Dream Safaris web site. After much research comparing Safari tours to Safari Tours, I soon discovered that ADS rose far above the other tour operators. It is wonderful to have your own vehicle, driver/guide and to realize that it truly is all about what you want to see and do! And now after returning from our Safari, I am very happy to say that ADS did not let us down!! Our Safari was simply the most amazing trip of my/our life!!!! It definitely was a dream come true!

Our Safari began when we landed at an Airstrip near the Mara River in the Northern Serengeti. From minutes to within an hour, we saw Wildebeest, Zebras, Giraffes, Impala, Waterbuck, Crocodiles, Hippos and many species of birds. At lunchtime, we ate under a beautiful tree and talked about what we might see next.

Just as we began to drive off in our Rover, our amazing guide, Russell, stopped driving, pulled out his binoculars and looked toward a grove of trees. He smiled broadly and then took off. When we finally drove out of the trees into a clearing, we saw what he had seen…. a Mother Rhinoceros and her baby! This was all within 3 hours after landing in the Serengeti!!!

When Russell, our driver, spotted animals, he always made sure that we had the perfect angle/lighting for our photos and viewing, but always showed complete respect and gave the animals the distance they needed to not feel threatened. Russell’s knowledge about Tanzania, its parks, and what “lives” there (animals/birds/plants/people) and its history was remarkable! It is safe to say, that without Russell, we never would have experienced a Safari like we did.

When we left home for our safari, I was sure that we would see a lot of animals, but what we saw far exceeded any expectation I could have possibly imagined! I thought we would drive along and “here and there” see an animal or two. Instead, mainly due to “Hawkeye” Russell, our wonderful guide and friend, it seemed we were constantly spotting an animal or a bird, or something! There was never a boring minute!

We were fortunate to see two Wildebeest crossings, one on the Mara River and one on the Grumeti River. And we saw hundreds/thousands of animals close enough that sometimes they were almost too close (haha!! ) to frame in my 80-400mm lens. I highly recommend that you bring 2 cameras if possible. We had one camera with an 80-400mm zoom lens and one camera with an 18-200mm lens. It seemed that what one camera /lens couldn’t completely capture, the other did! And I would also recommend that you bring lots of SD cards! I am a “photoholic”  , and I took well over 6500 pictures by myself, and with both cameras, my husband and I took a total of over 7500 pictures!

We saw “The Big 5” (numerous times), 2 of “The Little 5” and even made up our own “The Ugly Five” and “The Fake Five”!! (Explanation: when you are looking intently for animals, sometimes your imagination can get the best of you, and a stump may look like a monkey or a log in a river like a croc! We definitely had a few good laughs at ourselves! Just some of the wildlife that we saw while on Safari were: Wildebeest, Zebras, Hippos, Crocodiles, Giraffes, Elephants, Cape Buffalo, Lions, Leopards, Cheetahs, Jackals, Klipspringers, Steinbok, Orbi, Bushbuck, Dik-Dik, Kudu, Waterbuck, Hyaenas, Baboons, Colbus Monkeys, Rhinoceros, Python, Ostrich, Impalas, Gazelles, Warthogs, Topi, Eland, Bushbaby………….. and over 150 species of birds! I’m still amazed at all that we saw!

The lodgings and camps were wonderful! The accommodations that we stayed at were Lemala Kuria, Buffalo Springs, Mbalageti, Seronera Sametu, Lion’s Paw and Swala. “If it looks like a tent, it must be a tent”, does not hold true here. Some of our accommodations may have looked like a tent from the outside, but upon entering you walked into a beautifully decorated and comfortable room with a king sized bed, wardrobe, couch, chairs, desk and a fully functional bathroom.

And there is nothing better than falling asleep to the sound of animals all around you! And the staff at each of the places we stayed were all so warm and friendly, and always attentive to our needs. My only wish?… that I could have had more hours in a day to enjoy my 9 to 11 hour Safari drives with enough time leftover to still have been able to enjoy all of the many amenities that were offered at our lodgings, especially watching more “Bush TV”!!

If I could go back and do it all over again, I would do it in a heartbeat, and I wouldn’t change a thing. Our adventure was a trip of a lifetime and was made possible by careful preparations made by ADS stateside (Sharon and Michael) and in Tanzania by Russell and the ADS staff. Thank you!! Thank you!! (Asante) for making my/our dream of an African Safari come true!!!! And, a special thank you to my husband Jim for the best gift ever!!

Below are some of the pictures we took while on Safari. I hope you enjoy looking at them as much as we enjoyed taking them!

Thank you!!!

Pam and Jim B.
San Jose, CA
Safari Dates: October 8th – 18th, 2013

Consultant: Dawn
(866) 457-9977