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
I have been dreaming of going on an African Safari for most of my life. It took me almost 50 years to make that dream into a reality, and now I can hardly believe it is over.
I feel so blessed that this adventure was shared with my husband Lance, and my two daughters Chelsea (15) and Haley (11). We are all crazy animal lovers and all interested in learning about new cultures. This trip could not have been any more ideal for our family. I have to say that Dawn helped us to plan the perfect itinerary and we loved every minute of it!
Our adventure started in Arusha where we had the incredible opportunity to visit the St. Jude school. We spent the day visiting classes, eating lunch with the children, playing games, and learning all about this wonderful school which provides an opportunity for the most impoverished students to get a superior education. At the end of the day, we rode the bus home with a young student- Jennifa and visited her home.
We were overwhelmed as all of her friends, family and neighbors greeted us with songs and cheering. We were invited into her humble home for tea and snacks and talked with her parents (through and English translator). We were almost in tears when we left and we all hugged and cried as we told them we would like to sponsor their daughter in school this year.
The next day we flew off into the Serengeti on a small plane. We landed in the Grumeti air strip and were greeted by Petro our cheerful Safari Guide. He gave both my girls the biggest hug and said that we would have a great time together. Immediately upon leaving the airstrip we saw hundreds of wildebeasts and dozens of baboons. We were so excited to start our journey deep into the Serengeti.
On the ride to our first lodge- we saw giraffes, zebras and dozens of other animals. It felt like a dream. We arrived at the Mbalageti Tented lodge and were greeted with fresh juice and cold cloths to wipe our faces. We could not get over our luxury accommodations. Our family tent was like a small palace with an expansive deck looking out into the wilderness. We cooled off in the pool and took a nap before dinner. The buffets were all fabulous and it was fun to chat with other guests about their safari experiences.
The next day we got to see our first lion pride and spotted a beautiful leopard and even a cheetah. We spent time watching the hippos at the Retina pool. It was mating season so we saw two male hippos fighting, we even saw some pink babies and watched the hippos wallowing and grunting in the mud.
The Four Seasons Lodge, our next stop was like stepping into a travel magazine. We had fun at the beautiful pool where we could watch the elephants come drink at the watering hole. At one point- there were 37 elephants surrounding the area and even a one week old elephant baby that had been born on the property the week before. The staff there (and in all the lodges) were so kind and helpful. One morning a baboon visited us on our balcony. Haley thought that was so funny!
We continued our game drives and could not wait to see what the day would bring. The great migration of wildebeests and zebras was amazing to watch throughout. Petro, of course was so knowledgeable about the animals and we admired his respect and love for them. Lance and I chatted with him about Tanzanian culture, history and life. We all became great friends. He called Haley, my youngest the Safari boss and he teased Chelsea about her music. We learned about his family as well and I even got to speak with his wife on the phone.
We headed off to the Ngorongoro Crater and stopped at a Masaai village for a couple of hours which was truly a highlight for me. We were greeted by a the chief’s son (who spoke English.) We danced together, toured the village and got to see the boma huts where they live. We learned about their life and even visit the small school made of sticks. The children were so interested in us and we showed them pictures on our camera. We sang to them and gave each one a high five. It was AMAZING! I think it gave Chelsea and Haley a new appreciation of our life in the States.
We headed down into the crater and were hoping to see the elusive rhino. We lucked out and were able to find one (a bit in the distance) and watched him for some time. The Lion’s Paw tented camp on top of the crater was magical. We felt like we were in Avatar with all the lush trees. There were only 6 tents and we happened to be the only ones staying there that night. We were treated like royalty. We got to eat dinner together with Petro and visited with the staff at Lion’s Paw.
The next morning, as we headed into the crater we were fortunate to come upon a male lion lying in the road. We were in awe of this majestic creature. A few hundred yards away- his harem of 6 lionesses were planning their attack on a small herd of zebra. We watched them spread out and slowly, slowly creep along in the tall grass until they were close enough to charge. It was so exciting to watch!! The zebra were faster than we imagined and got away! Phew…
After a few more hours surveying the crater, seeing hyenas, mammoth elephants, hundreds of flamingos in the salty lake and dozens of other birds. We decided to make our way to Gibbs Farm. This was our last stop and it was a wonderful retreat for 3 nights after a week of game drives. We spent our time in Gibbs Farm sitting out on the lawn chairs, picking vegetables in the 9 acre garden, drinking coffee and relaxing. We also had a chance to tour the small nearby town and visit an orphanage. It was a great way to end our Safari experience. The last night the staff brought us a cake and sang to us in Swahili.
I feel so sad that it’s all over now, But these memories will last a lifetime. Thank you so much to African Dream Safari especially to Dawn for planning this fabulous trip for us to Petro for guiding us through the Serengeti with care and fun, to all the fabulous staff at the lodges who made us feel like special guests and the Tanzanian people for sharing your beautiful country with us and especially for your warm smiles!
Stephanie, Lance, Chelsea and Haley E.
May 27, 2014 to June 5, 2014