Two year before our African vacation my wife Jenny and two granddaughters, Haley and Morgan, were watching an episode of “The Amazing Race”. The Maasai warriors were performing their traditional dance. Mesmerized by this performance Haley, 15 years old, and Morgan,12 years old, asked, “Can we go and see them?” With Grandpa wrapped around their little fingers, I said “Yes, we can!”
This commitment, without any understanding of what I was getting us into, led to several months of fact-finding and research. Having never been outside of the United States or ever attempted travel this complex, I was completely lost.
My research uncovered many choices that had to be made: safari tour (8-12 people) or a private custom safari with just our family; location in Africa; time of the year; financial constraints; and children considerations. I finally chose a private, custom safari that gave us total control of our agenda and timing that could be altered if we needed to address the girls’ needs…or ours. Later I found that this was a crucial decision that made all the difference to us.
Having decided on a private tour, I needed to find an outfitter that offered them, and as luck would have it, I came across Africa Dream Safaris and Dawn Anderson. From my first phone call to our return home, she was with us the entire year and a half. Dawn answered all our questions…and there were hundreds; offered many options; made schedule changes at the spur of the moment; and gave advice throughout the process on every aspect of the trip. She was the catalyst for our successful adventure.
Our trip was in June, a wonderful time of the year for seeing wildlife and babies. Oh, the babies! The weather was fantastic and the Serengeti was still green and alive. The food was delicious. Jenny, a vegetarian, was accommodated throughout the trip. With the personal touches we received, you would have thought we owned the Company! At every stop we received cool drinks to quench our thirst, wet towels to wash the trail dust from our faces, and personal notes, hoping we were having a good time.
Our adventures were numerous and memorable. We ate lunch one day six feet from two cheetahs and their three cubs. Another day we saw a complete lion hunt from beginning to end.
My greatest experience was our visit to the Maasai village. This process involved a meeting of the elders prior to entering the village. As we crossed a muddy field the chief and several warriors with spears approached. Haley elbowed me and whispered that these people have nothing, are wild and dirty, and have flies all over them. She asked if we were safe. We spent several hours in the village. The chief explained community life in the village and how they all pitched in to help each other. We danced with them, visited inside their huts, and had an altogether insightful day into their lives, so different from ours. As we left across that same muddy field, Haley said to me, “Grandpa, I have never seen people so happy. I think I could live here.”
This was a life changing experience for us, particularly my granddaughters. Haley wants to have her honeymoon here and Morgan said she can’t wait to return. God willing, we will all return in 2015.
Our experience is etched into our hearts and souls, a once-in-a-lifetime dream vacation, thanks to the wonderful guides and people at Africa Dream Safaris.
Bill, Jennie, Haley and Morgan C.
Safari Dates: June 14, 2014 to June 24, 2014
Our Africa Dream Safari was a home run for our family of four! From our initial inquiry to the farewell at the Kilimanjaro airport our experience was exceptional. Sharon Lyon crafted a fabulous 8 day safari for us and sent us a comprehensive pre-safari folder that included our detailed itinerary, a DVD, maps of Tanzania and the ADS Handbook which is an invaluable resource for everything you need to know about a safari in Tanzania.
Tanzania is a place of breathtaking beauty and we struggle to find the words to adequately describe our experience. You will know what we mean when you take in the view from the open air dining room at the Mbalageti tented lodge, drive over the rim of the Ngorongoro crater for the first time, or experience the never ending plains of the Central Serengeti from a private safari Land Cruiser nick named ”Air Force One.”
Highlights of our safari include being greeted by three giraffes (my favorite) as we entered the Seronera Sametu tented camp, seeing a lioness chase off a cheetah to protect her cubs and a 15 minute “up-close and personal” stand off with a bull elephant who wanted our shady spot under an acacia tree.
Any safari is mostly about the animals and we saw plenty, but we would be remiss if we did not mention the efforts of the Africa Dream Safari family who provided more than we ever expected in service and hospitality. Mattias and Timon met us at the Kilimanjaro Airport and expedited the Tanzania visa process for us (one of the perks of booking with ADS). Claude, our driver- guide, was personable and extremely knowledgeable about all creatures great and small, including the termites!
Jonas at Sametu camp and Edward at Lion’s Paw camp were our gracious hosts who greeted us with warm wash cloths and refreshing juice after each game drive and made sure that we had hot water bottles under our covers each night. Kudos to ADS for the most amazing trip ever!
Ted, Gretchen, Emily & Nicholas J.
Princeton Junction, New Jersey
Safari Dates: June 19-27, 2014
It has long been a dream of my sister, husband & I to safari in Africa & I diligently researched many, many companies with which to take our tour. ADS has many awards from the Tanzanian government & National Geographic on their outstanding work on safari and within the Tanzanian community. I had the good fortune to work with Sharon Lyons (Mama Simba), Arnold (our world class guide & driver) as well as the camp hosts & workers.
Upon our arrival in the Western Serengeti, our game drive had gems as we were right in the midst of the Great Migration! Wildebeest, zebra, gazelles & impala were in the hundreds of thousand with elephants, giraffe & mongoose in the hundreds. It is an amazing sight to be surrounded by over a million wildebeest plaintively bleating, running & fighting! Mbalagetti Lodge was beautiful, sitting on the edge of the Dutwa Plain with an outstanding view from the dining veranda, pool & spa. I particularly enjoyed the “whoop-whoop” of the hyenas close by at night.
We moved on to Central Serengeti where, starting out in early morning, we were treated to hyenas with a kill and lionesses with their kill. We enjoyed watching the large number of creatures that feed from a single kill (lionesses, hyena, jackals, white-backed vultures and Lappett vultures to name a few). It sounds cliché, but for someone who has watched hours of National Geographic’s Wild Discovery, it was surreal to be so close to the action. Our stay at the Sametu Camp could have been miserable because of the nightly rain, but Jonas & the crew made our return each night enjoyable with fabulous, fresh meals, hot showers & a hot water bottle for the cold night. Our lodging was luxurious for a tent & we enjoyed the stay. Our hot air balloon ride over the Central Serengeti was magical and serene!
The Central Serengeti is certainly “cat central” and during the 3 day period we viewed: 3 leopards, 8 cheetah, 27 lionesses, 15 male lions, and 16 cubs! We spent hours at the Masaii Kopje watching a large pride feed, then relax & play. We even had the good fortune to see a lioness up a tree! A stop at the Lion Research Center was extremely interesting & the researchers shared their identification files as well as information gleaned from years of painstaking observation – definitely an organization worthy of our donations. Leaving the research station, we sighted a Serval cat and bat eared fox which are very rare during daylight. The following day while driving to Ngorogoro Crater we were treated to a fight between two massive male hippos, and herds of elephants (some with 18+ members) knocking over trees so their babies could reach the most succulent leaves at the top – impressive!
Ngorogoro Crater was awe-inspiring! Driving on the plains, the dormant volcano is easy to see in the distance, but driving down into the caldera was magical! I loved the lush landscaping at the top of the crater with the huge plain in the center. More resident animals are found here – the beautiful black rhino was tops on my list and we saw one the moment we drove down! After such an exciting start to this region’s gems, we all absolutely loved Lion’s Paw Camp & Edward was another host that treated us like royalty! The luxury tents amid the dense foliage with bird calls in the air was a treat for the soul.
We saw more wildlife than even we could imagine, enjoyed all the stories of Arnold & appreciated the expert care taken by our hosts in the camps – it really was a trip of a lifetime! Thank you Sharon, Faith and everyone who assisted with this trip. Every day is a good day in the bush!
Candice and Michael Y. and Patricia R.
Bay Point, California
Safari Dates: June 1-12, 2014