Our Incredible Adventure
Sandy and I have been back from safari for two weeks now and we are still talking about how incredible our safari to Tanzania was. The people, the parks, the animals, and the accommodations of Tanzania were a magical experience. Everything we had read by others was true and deserves repeating. However, it still falls far short of actually experiencing it firsthand. Dawn Anderson and ADS’s attention to detail of what we wanted to see and experience was a major factor in the success of our safari. We cannot say enough about the time and effort Dawn spent working with us to make sure we had a perfect safari for us. Here are some highlights from our trip which began June 21:
Day 1 – We landed at Kilimanjaro airport in Tanzania where the ADS greeter had us processed in minutes through the passport control line. The ADS Arusha guide gave us a warm welcome, gathered our bags, gave us an informative ride to the Mt. Meru Hotel in Arusha. Then he conducted a safari briefing, presented a lovely welcome gift of a Maasai beaded bracelet to Sandy, and helped us get checked in the hotel.
Day 2 – After a relaxing evening, we spent an extra day in Arusha to recover from jet lag. We were taken on a leisurely tour of the city which was very informative and interesting. Sandy had the opportunity to do some shopping. We were taken to the Cultural Heritage Center for some souvenir shopping and then to TanzaniteOne, where Sandy purchased a beautiful Tanzanite ring. That evening, a private dining area was set up for us outside and a special meal was prepared so we could celebrate our anniversary; one of the reasons for our trip. This was one of the many unexpected and thoughtful touches provided by the ADS team throughout our Tanzanian adventure.
Day 3 – We had an early flight into the central Serengeti and it was finally safari time. Our guide took us to the Arusha airport and made sure we got boarded properly. Sandy does not like small planes, but the flight was short and low enough that we could see the countryside. On final approach to the Seronera airstrip, we were glued to the window of the aircraft as a huge herd of zebras emerged below us.
After landing, we were greeted immediately by our guide, Francis. This man proved to be one of the warmest and most knowledgeable people we have ever known. He was not only able to talk in depth about the animals, but of the country, its heritage and its development. We cannot overstate the importance of your guide on a safari and Francis was fantastic!
We immediately started our first game drive. We literally had chills because this is why we came to Africa. We wanted to experience all the wildlife and natural beauty. In the first half of the day, we saw lions, zebra, wildebeest, giraffe, topi, eland, buffalo, elephant and ostrich. We had lunch overlooking a vast plain filled with zebras and wildebeest and were provided an introduction to the Serengeti and a detailed description of what we could expect on our safari. We continued our game drive all the way to Bilila lodge. Bilila lodge was a magnificent property and our room was pure luxury. We had an amazing dinner including a second surprise anniversary cake and were then off to bed.
Day 4 – We awoke for a leisurely breakfast and then were off to the bush. Our second day provided diverse wildlife viewing again including hippos, monkeys, baboons, crocodiles, turtles, lions, impala, gazelle, elephant, zebras, buffalo, and wildebeest. We marveled at how the landscape is ever changing and always seemingly endless. The countryside is breathtakingly beautiful. There were lots of birds of many species and many bright colors that contrasted sharply with the color of the countryside.
We were back to the lodge by 4 p.m. so we could enjoy our spectacular balcony view, beautiful sunset, and another great dinner. One of the great things about our safari was that it was private and we could pick when and what we wanted to do daily. This was one of the many reasons for choosing ADS. We came to realize this value the more we watched over crowded safari vehicles pass us daily rushing from spot to spot.
Day 5 – After breakfast, we game drove our way to the central Serengeti. We continued through areas of dense game which included zebra, wildebeest, cheetahs, buffalo and giraffe, and then stopped for lunch at the Serengeti Visitor Center. In the afternoon, we found ourselves driving among the kopjes gawking at lions, giraffe, and elephants. The highlight of the day was encountering a lion pride and watching them stalk their prey. An interesting thing was that the male lion did not take part in the hunt.
Day 6 – We had breakfast, checked out, and said our thanks to the wonderful staff and headed out for the western serengeti. Our destination was to view the great migration. We game drove the entire day through thousands of zebras and wildebeest. We had lunch along the way at a park ranger camp. We had no idea that this was only part of the great migration. How could there be more? We arrived at Mbalageti Lodge late that afternoon. It sits atop a hill and overlooks a wonderful plain that goes forever. We had another wonderful dinner and a good night’s sleep.
Day 7 – We awoke very refreshed and had breakfast overlooking the plain below us. While we were eating, a herd of hundreds of wildebeest came running down the side of a hill and ran across the plain below us. Magnificent! We game drove north to the Grumeti River where we were surrounded by thousands upon thousands of wildebeest and zebras on their great migration. There were so many you cannot imagine even trying to count them. They covered the entire landscape. They were on the way to cross the river on their northern trek into Kenya. We stopped at the river and saw many crocodiles hoping to get lucky.
Day 8 –We said goodbye to Mbalageti and began our drive towards Ngorongoro Crater. We saw the usual diverse array of wildlife along the way. We stopped for lunch at the Serengeti Park exit and continued down to Olduvai Gorge. We visited the museum and listened to a presentation. It was interesting to see this cradle of humanity first hand.
We continued on towards the Crater. On the way we stopped to visit one of the many Maasai villages. The people were very friendly and kind enough to let us tour their village. We finally arrived at Crater Lodge and got checked in. The staff was very professional and greeted us with Champagne. Our room was magnificent with a great view of the crater and complete with a wood burning stove to combat the chill from the altitude. Dinner was again outstanding and we received our third anniversary cake, which was delivered to our table by singing and dancing staff. This was a very nice end to a long day’s drive from the western Serengeti.
Day 9 – We were up at 6:30 am, grabbed some coffee and were among the first to enter the Crater that day. The view from above the Crater is matched only by the spectacular diversity of wildlife that unfolds from within. The crater lake was colored pink by hundreds of pink flamingos standing in it. We had an amazing breakfast overlooking a hippo pool. We watched a lioness with her cubs stalking a zebra herd. We had the great fortune of seeing the black maned lion and admired his beauty.
The day was capped off by our sighting five black rhino, which completed the BIG Five for us. We headed back to the lodge and were pleasantly surprised that a hot bubble bath had been drawn, adorned with rose petals. We had another delicious dinner in the dining room, next to the fireplace. It was then off to bed for an early drive to Lake Manyara.
Days 10 – After some coffee and saying goodbye to our excellent butler and the staff, we took a slow drive down the fog shrouded mountain road. We arrived at Manyara and game drove through the morning. Here, we saw many velvet monkeys and baboons. We observed a family with two little ones that were being watched over, much like we do to our children.
Then it was off to Tarangire Park. We had lunch at the park entrance and then drove into the park. We had been told that we might see a herd of 50 to 100 elephants. We immediately saw a herd, and then more, and more, and more. We were overwhelmed by the number of elephants and saw at least three hundred or more. This was amazing! I love the elephants and enjoyed this greatly.
We continued on until we arrived at Swala Lodge. Our hosts met us, gave us a tour, and a drink at the outdoor lounge. We watched a herd of elephants and impala graze while we enjoyed our drinks. We were treated to a special dinner under the stars at our lodge and Sandy was presented a birthday cake.
Day 11 – We were about to head home. After breakfast, we said goodbye to our hosts and game drove through the morning out of the park and headed to Arusha. We stopped along the way to buy more souvenirs. Once again the ADS staff was waiting at the hotel when we arrived, got us situated at Mt. Meru Hotel for lunch and made sure we got back to Kilimanjaro airport in a timely manner for the trip to Amsterdam.
Thanks again Dawn, the rest of the ADS Team, and a special thank you to our guide, Francis, for the trip of a lifetime! Francis is filled with information about Tanzania and always anxious to share this with his clients. He also has a deep compassion and an innate understanding of what every person needs to make their safari perfect for them. You are never “just another client” with ADS. You are treated as if you are the most important people in the world! We would never consider using any other safari outfitters now that we have experienced the attention to detail provided by the entire ADS company!
Jerry & Sandy