Jambo! We’ve recently returned from a trip of a lifetime, a number 1 bucket list item celebrating 3 retirements and a birthday. Thanks to ADS, the adventure was everything we hoped for and more!
Planning for the safari began 2 years before our trip. Since I retired first, the research and details became my project. After checking out several private safari companies, upon meeting with friends that had just returned from an ADS safari, and after speaking on several occasions with Dawn Anderson, we decided that ADS best met our needs. The four of us included amateur photography buffs and two elementary school teachers. Dawn was magnificent in meshing our varied interests and needs. She guided us through every step leading up to our safari.
We elected to travel directly to Tanzania and arrived tired but excited after nearly 30 hours in transit. Faith and Timon were there to meet and greet us, shepherd us through visa lines, and take us to the Mount Meru Resort. We elected to stay 2 nights in order to get some R & R and explore Arusha. The grounds and accommodations were lovely—We wisely opted to get massages. An unexpected surprise was a special dinner under the gazebo with a cake acknowledging the occasion of our retirements. Faith and Timon’s graciousness made our introduction to Tanzania so easy.
The next day we were off to take a short flight to the Serengeti. Francis, our driver/guide, was there to greet us and off we went to the Mara River. On our drive we saw nearly all the wildlife that we had come to see. Mara River Camp was a revelation. From being greeted by the staff with scented towels and refreshing juice to our luxury tents with comfortable furnishings and ensuite bathroom to incredible meals (prepared in a tiny kitchen), we couldn’t believe our good fortune. Conversing with the other guests was delightful. We spent the night listening to the voices of zebra, wildebeest, gazelles, and warthogs as they grazed along our tents and even peeked at them from our “window.”
Onward to the Lobo Valley to gaze upon open plains that are reminiscent of our mid-west. We reveled in its beauty and that of the giant granite kopjes where we spied lions and cheetahs napping. Our next lodging was at Buffalo Tented Lodge—our most luxurious accommodation. Its high elevation provided us with magnificent vistas. The meals were delicious—rivaling the best restaurants back home. The birthday girl was serenaded in both Swahili and English and presented with a yummy birthday cake.
A special highlight was the visit to a Maasai village. We were escorted by Seketo, the chief’s son, who also happens to be employed at Buffalo. Because of its remote location, we had a “private” tour that afforded us much time to see how the proud, hardworking Maasai live. Their homes reminded us of how the Native Americans constructed their homes. Children begin early to tend to goats and cattle or to their younger siblings. I enjoyed participating with the women in their traditional a cappella singing and dancing.
On the drive through the Central Serengeti to the Ngorongoro Highlands we observed in close proximity lions and their cubs and a trio of cheetahs stalking and taking down a zebra. Included were worthwhile stops at the Serengeti Information Center and Oldupai Gorge where James and Mary Leake spent many years uncovering the “Cradle of Mankind.”
Lion’s Paw Tented Camp is ideally situated because it’s nearest the entrance to the Crater. We loved its remoteness and the nice touches to make it warm and cozy—soft blankets (that we used on our drives), heater, and hot water bottles to warm the bed. It was one of our favorite accommodations.
Because of our location, we were one of the first to reach the Crater. In relative isolation, we saw 2 different lion prides – one of which comprised 12—a rare sight to see one so large. We saw lionesses working together to stalk prey and cubs playing mischievously. We saw hippos resting in the green marshland and hundreds of flamingos.
On our drive to the Tarangire, we incorporated a visit to the Foundation for African Medicine & Education (F.A.M.E.), another highlight of our trip. Dr. Frank Artress and his wife, Susan Gustafson, have made it their mission to improve the quality and accessibility to medical care in this underserved community. It is quite inspiring to see what they have built. They couldn’t have been more gracious with their time. To discover that they also hailed from California was quite a coincidence.
We ended our safari exploring the Tarangire and staying at Maramboi Tented Lodge. By this time, unlimited hot water was a real treat! At our final dinner, we were entertained by a singing procession of staff who presented us with a good-bye cake!
Finally, thank you to the ADS staff for matching us with Francis. His enthusiasm and knowledge of the terrain and wildlife and his ability to see and point out animals provided us with an excellent vantage point for viewing and photography. We enjoyed our daily debriefing, planning for the next day’s adventures, and learning more about him. He is a natural teacher and was an integral part of realizing our dream safari.
Paula and Bob S.
Los Angeles, California
Safari Dates: September 2-16, 2014
A massive wildebeest herd fills the horizon. The occasional bird drifts by overhead. The ground is covered with sage-colored scrub brush and tufts of brighter green grass – a sign of recent rains. Barely the hint of a breeze blows by as the mid-afternoon sun blazes in a cloudless, pale blue sky.
All is hushed as we wait – one solitary safari vehicle surrounded by the vast glory of the African plain.
Suddenly, near the horizon, a flash of movement to the left, and then a cloud of dust. The wildebeest, calm and unconcerned just moments earlier, now scramble, confused and disorganized. The herd becomes a dark mass stampeding off to the right.
Within seconds, we are bouncing wildly in our vehicle as it rumbles over 300 yards of rough terrain to the center of the action. There, the two cheetahs we’ve been stalking for an hour skillfully, efficiently wrestle a one-year-old wildebeest to the ground. For several minutes, it’s all legs, tails and teeth amid grunts and shrieks.
The action slows… and the feast begins. The two cheetahs – likely brothers – take turns, one gorging while the other on alert for threats to their hard-earned prize.
Thanks to our excellent ADS guide, Wilfred, my family and I were in the right place at the right time to watch this scene unfold. He had shown time and again his knack for sensing drama about to happen. And he was a storehouse of knowledge about the animals, their habits and physiology.
Driving down the road from Gol Kopjes to Naabi Hill, Wilfred had spotted one male cheetah sitting up in the tall grass, and then another a short distance away – a coalition.
It only took his one comment, “These brothers are ready to hunt,” and we were all in for the adventure.
And so we stalked the cheetahs, watching one brother become the eager leader, and the other, a lazy follower. They slinked through the grass separately, covering the half-mile distance to their prey with frequent stops to lounge and covertly survey their surroundings. We heard the lead cat communicating in low growls the encouragement his brother needed to pursue their dinner.
And our patience paid off.
This was the fourth ADS safari for my husband, Don, and me, but it was extra special because our two adult children, Chris and Stephanie, were able to come with us. Each Tanzanian adventure has had highlights – but none as memorable as this. The day before, we’d seen another cheetah kill in the Ndutu Woodland, and a day later, a jackal bringing down a black stork for his supper down in the Ngorongoro Crater.
Oh, and who could forget the hour spent along the road to Big Marsh Valley watching two baby cheetahs – kittens really – tumbling over each other in play under their mother’s watchful eye? Soon after we left the babies, an adult male cheetah got friendly with us, leaping up on the hood of our vehicle and staring curiously at us through the windshield for a few interesting minutes before jumping down.
While the cheetah sightings were many – more than any previous safari – we encountered the full spectrum of African wildlife during our eight days in the bush: elephant herds (we counted roughly 460 elephants, including many babies, in one day at Tarangire Park), black rhino, hippo, lions, leopard, hyenas, giraffe, zebra, cape buffalo, birds of every size and color, and the rare caracal. We even saw a wildebeest giving birth.
Chris and I took thousands of photos, while Stephanie recorded the action. Her videos can be viewed below:
After full days of game viewing, we were always happy to get back to our lodgings for a relaxing shower, a delicious dinner and plenty of lively conversations about all we had seen. We never lacked for subject matter.
We combined stays at Sametu and Lion’s Paw camps with Lake Masek Lodge and Tarangire Treetops. The accommodations and meals were outstanding – topped only by the warm hospitality and service of the staff in each place.
One of our favorite things was eating dinner with Wilfred. Of course we knew about his expertise in animal behavior and navigating treacherous, flooded roads, but this is when we got to know about him and his family life.
We keep going back to Tanzania with ADS because we love the way they take care of every detail. From the greeting at the airport by our friendly host, Faith, to the final send-off going home, we find the ADS staff to be thoroughly professional and competent. Of course, the driver/guide has a lot to do with the safari experience, and Wilfred was outstanding.
My husband and I are hooked on Tanzania and definitely will go back. I have a feeling our kids will, too. We’ve loved every trip with ADS, and I know we’ll use the company again. We can’t imagine being in better hands.
Don, Laima, Stephanie and Christopher V.
Safari Dates: February 6, 2014 to February 15, 2014
Our family just returned from our dream safari in Tanzania! Africa Dream Safaris provided us with everything we needed. The service Dawn provided us prior to our journey was always prompt and so valuable. She worked hard to make sure our trip was tailored to our desires and we greatly appreciate her efforts.
It was so comforting to have an ADS team member take care of us from the moment we stepped off our plane in Africa. The accommodations at each of our camps on the safari exceeded our expectations and the staff did everything to make our stay memorable, from the campfire discussions, the delicious meals, the hot water bottles in our beds, to the wake up calls with drinks and treats in the morning.
We were amazed every day by the knowledge of Russell, our guide. We can’t begin to express how impressed we were with his wealth of knowledge. We learned more in 9 days with him than we could have ever learned in a classroom. As we show friends pictures of our trip, we find ourselves adding so much extra information about each picture, from details about the animal’s social life, to information about why a bird or lion is acting a particular way, to details about the vegetation or terrain. Russell’s pride of his country and enthusiasm to share information spread to each of us and we can’t seem to stop sharing it with our friends. He had the skills to find and spot more animals than we ever dreamed we would see.
The first day of our safari, we saw animals every time we turned our head. We were privileged to witness a 45 minute wildebeest crossing of the Mara River. Nothing can describe the thunderous sound as they push their way across the river! We were able to see a zebra with a white mane, and when Russell took a picture of it we knew we witnessed something unusual.
We saw more lions and cheetahs than we could have hoped for. We saw 3 serval cats and 2 honey badgers which Russell said were rare to see. We were even lucky enough to see a tree climbing python and a black rhino. We have so many memories and stories and I know we will continue to repeat them for many years to come.
Africa is so alluring, providing a scenic picture with every turn of your head. You find yourself speechless as you try and soak up every bit of its beauty. I am so thankful to have had this experience with my family! Seeing the amazement in my children’s eyes with every turn of our trip was priceless.
I would strongly suggest to anyone who has ever considered going on safari to stop thinking about it and just do it. Take the trip. You won’t regret it. It is the most amazing, majestic place I have ever been, and I hope to return some day.
Michelle, Scott, Kristie, Janelle, Mary, Eugene and Timothy
Safari Dates: July 11, 2014 to July 20, 2014