Over two years ago my neighbor and good friend mentioned over a glass of wine that she’d always wanted to go on an African safari and sleep in tents in the wild African countryside. We were both newly retired and both wanted to do some traveling, so I jumped on the idea and started researching safari companies. It didn’t take me long to narrow the choices, and ultimately I contacted Africa Dream Safaris.
From our first contact, Sharon Lyon (aka Mama Simba) promptly responded to all my inquiries and worked with me to design the perfect safari for us. We soon found two more friends interested in joining us, so the four of us finalized all the details and dates, then waited anxiously for a year and a half for our dream to become a reality.
Our arrival at Kilimanjaro Airport was just as described. We were met by Faith, a wonderful, warm representative of ADS. We were whisked through the visa process and soon were on our way to Mount Meru Resort in Arusha by our driver, Peter. We also met Timon and Matteas, other members of the greeting staff, who made sure we felt welcome and informed of what would be happening as we started our African adventure. The accommodations at Mount Meru were luxurious and our scheduled layover day in Arusha was just what we needed to rest up for our trip to the Serengeti.
The following morning we boarded our bush plane. We made several stops before we arrived at our airstrip meeting location, which gave us the opportunity to see more of the Serengeti from the air. Before even landing we had seen Wildebeest, Warthogs, Ostrich, Zebra, Elephants, Giraffe, and Gazelle.
We were greeted by our guide, Francis, whom we had been assured was “the best”. It proved to be true! His knowledge, expertise in spotting animals, love of learning, and passion for wildlife conservation became obvious very soon. He had a wealth of knowledge to share with us, a wonderful sense of humor, and endless patience accommodating our photo ops. Within the first two hours of our game drive we had seen 15 more species of animals and birds. What a magnificent day it was!
Our first night at the Mara River Camp was more than we expected. The “tents” were clean, comfortable, and the convenience of the attached bathroom and shower facilities were a welcome surprise. We dubbed the shower “the talking shower” after staff remained outside our tent to inquire whether the temperature of the shower water was acceptable. We enjoyed our “talking shower” at two other camps during our 8-day safari.
At all of the camps – Buffalo Springs Tented Lodge (very luxurious!), Seronera Sametu Camp, and Lion’s Paw Tented Camp – the hosts and staff were welcoming and made our stays with them very memorable. J. J. at Seronera Sametu Camp teased us that there would be no dinner because the hyenas got in the kitchen and ate all the food! Edward at Lion’s Paw Camp gifted us with Massai names.
Each camp was unique, however all had excellent chefs with staff that served elegant meals. Morning “wake up calls” were accompanied by coffee served in our tents. Evenings at the camps presented the opportunity to share stories of the day’s game drive, make new friends from throughout the world, and added to the wonderful memories of this trip of a lifetime! And we were able to fall asleep to the “music of the night”, the lions, hyenas, and other animals communicating throughout the night as we peacefully slept.
Our visit to the Massai village, Ololosokwan, was a highlight of our trip. Our Massai guide, John, was eager to help us learn their culture. The Massai people were warm and friendly, allowing us to go inside one of the houses and see how they live. We had the opportunity to watch them dance and to dance with them. We felt quite drab in our safari clothing compared to their wonderful, colorful native clothing! After completing the tour we were given the opportunity to see their beautiful hand-made crafts and to barter for any we wished to purchase. There was no pressure to buy, but how could we possibly resist such beautifully crafted items to take home as souvenirs!
After our eight days of game drives, seeing all of the animals we could possibly name, including THREE black rhinos, and witnessing the iconic Mara River crossing of the Wildebeest and Zebras, it was time to say goodbye to our new friend Francis, and fly to Zanzibar for three days of sun, scuba diving, and relaxation.
This extension of our trip at Ras Nungwi Resort was a chance to experience a different African culture on the island of Zanzibar and also to briefly see the largest city in Tanzania, Dar es Salaam as we prepared to fly home. Our leaving was bittersweet, as we didn’t want to leave such a fabulously scenic country, rich with diverse wildlife and warm, friendly people!
We will share with friends and family the pictures and stories of our time in Africa, but will never be able to adequately express the impact of the sights, smells, sounds, and feelings of being surrounded by nature’s glorious creations!
Safari Dates: September 25, 2014 to October 6, 2014
After enjoying a great lunch in the bushes of the Northern Serengeti, we got into the Safari Land Cruiser for our next excursion. We reached our target location, and spent time enjoying the beautiful landscape all around us. The rolling hills, stark plateaus, the umbrella trees served as the serene backdrop to what was going to happen next. GET DOWN, WE ARE MOVING! Malaki, our African Dream Safari guide, yelled to us as he shifted into gear and sped towards the river. Dozens of other Jeeps sped with us as we darted around small trees and dodged other jeeps to reach the banks of the River Mara. Here we were able to witness one of the most breathtaking spectacles of our journey through Africa…
All of the adventures we experienced came to fruition thanks to the Team from African Dream Safaris. I had spent almost a year researching and contacting multiple Luxury Safari Operators which finally led me to call Dawn Anderson. In the first moments while talking to Dawn, I knew I was talking to the right person. Dawn’s knowledge about the Serengeti could easily fill an encyclopedia, and she anticipates every need. The main reason Dawn stands above the rest is her ability to tailor to our groups’ needs in the truest sense. Her work helped to create the experience of a lifetime.
The locations we stayed at all were of exceptional quality and the staff gave us great service. Bushtop camp was beyond our expectation – with their manager Mr. Pantaleo, who is the best manager I have ever seen. He is very hospitable, helpful, full of knowledge, accommodating and above all, always there. The Migration camp was also a wonderful stay. Four season is definitely a great facility with panoramic views of the valley. Their buffet choices were great with selections including: African, Indian and Western. The Crater lodge had the best views of the crater. Their guest person, Mr. Ladslaus, went above and beyond to keep us comfortable.
ADS offers great excursion choices, and the guides they provide are the best in the business. Our guide Mr. Malaki had special eye for spotting animals, and he had extensive wealth of knowledge about animal behavior. He explained things as a professor delivering lecture in a classroom, he was exceptional. His driving skills, and timing allowed us to witness so many animals in their natural habitat. Mr. Malaki also took great care to explain the different cultures of Africa. He took us to visit a Masaai Village near the Ngrongoro Crater, and he even coordinated a trip to a Sikh Temple in Arusha.
We saw so many lions and got to experience multiple different behaviors as they roamed their lands. The most memorable was when we saw a lioness keeping a watchful eye on her three cubs as they played around her.Thanks to Mr. Malaki we spotted three leopards. Leopards are very hard to see because they are very shy from the sounds of jeeps and us humans. Mr. Malaki spotted one above us on a rock and we had a great picture opportunity. We saw many Hippos in Retina Pond, and one of them opened its mouth fully and showed us the largest mouth span of any carnivore on the planet.
Luckily on the 6th day of safari we were able to see 2 rhino’s – The tanks of Serengeti. We saw them at Ngrongoro Crater in their glory among many other animals. Elephants are a staple on the Serengeti and they showed us true happiness. They moved in families and played in the mud and ponds, swinging their trunks all over the place. Their size also showed us their strength and power, as they left a path of destruction while they ate branches and uprooted trees during their travels.
Coming back full circle to the earlier story we were able to see the Migration of Wildebeest – the largest number of animals on the Serengeti. They have an amazing cycle of life that begins with the baby learning how to walk and run within minutes of being born. And their death that keeps the hunters of the Serengeti with full bellies. Their stampede and river crossing causes the earth to shake as huge dust clouds spill over the landscape. The Wildebeest move as one unit across a crocodile filled river; those who choose the right path around the stones survive, others are food for the beasts of the river and the vulture who fly overhead. Click here to see my Wildebeest Migration Video.
To ADS, our guides, all the staff involved, and especially Mr. Malaki and Dawn Anderson – we would like to say THANK YOU for working tirelessly to give us the experience of a lifetime.
Digvijay and Parminder S.
Safari Dates: July 24, 2014 to August 1, 2014
I have wanted to travel to East Africa since I read about animals in Tanganyika. As it turns out, 61 years later I made it to the independent county of Tanzania. My wife and I saw everything we hoped to see. Dawn Anderson gave us perfect advice on how to pack, where to go to see what we hoped for and wonderful advice on a rest period before returning home to the U.S. Zanzibar is a great rest and relaxation delight.
Our guide, Ally, had as he termed it, binocular eyes! What we thought was a lion in the distance he calmly glanced and told us it was a group of dry grass. Ally could look left, right, up ,down, shift and talk on his line to other drivers all at the same time! We missed nothing. The great migration was a sight to behold with thousands of wildebeest and zebra crossing all at the same time.
We saw what everyone terms the big 5, but we fell in love with “Tommies” and warthogs and elephants. Who knew warthogs loved to roll in the mud? Who knew just how cute young Tommie’s are! And our guide knew of a certain river spot where hippos enjoyed rolling on their back. Elephant moms are the best and our guide showed us several examples of that fact. Lions are just as magnificent as you ever imagined, both male and female. Their roar could be heard for miles and as you hear that, you can fall asleep with a smile on your face and wonder what the next day will bring.
The camps were great and the people even better. I have never met people as friendly and gracious as the Tanzanian people. Everyone greeted us with a warm smile and “Jambo, Jambo”. They are so proud of their country and its beauty. As you go through the Serengeti you will not see a single piece of trash or sign that a human had been there. This is land that belongs to animals and they allow us to pass through.
We would enthusiastically recommend ADS…they delivered on every single promise made. With special commendations to Dawn, our extraordinary guide Ally, and Faith, who held our hand through passport-visa check points and fully briefed us on our first day and debriefed us on our last day.
A wonderful trip ended with tearful good-byes to our new friends and thoughts of some day returning.
Dan and Emilie W.
Safari Dates: September 18, 2014 to September 29, 2014