We have been planning a trip to Tanzania for two years to celebrate our 15th anniversary. We wanted this trip to have elements of what we like about our lives together: adventure, “luxury”, excitement and sharing educational experiences. We also wanted to witness, first hand, the magnitude of the great migration.
Sharon, our ADS planner, arranged the perfect agenda. And Arnold, our jovial, incredibly knowledgeable guide, made it come to life. From the minute we woke in Arusha, to the day we left Tanzania, it was amazing. Arnold, sporting a huge grin, met us upon arrival at the Mara River Airstrip and off we went on our first game drive en route to Buffalo Springs. We came across over 35 animals and exotic birds that day (1 of the 35 would be a few thousand wildebeest!). If this was any indication of the rest of the trip – we’re in heaven!
Our tented camps were beautiful with all the luxury we expected. The staff was very friendly and so accommodating, and every meal in our private camps was delicious. I say private because, at times we were the only guests, which made our trip even more special.
Having the vehicle and Arnold all to ourselves allowed us to get out earlier and stay out much later than if we had shared the time with other guests. We saw more Cheetah, Lions and Leopards than we ever expected to see. The migrating herds we witnessed, standing above the Serengeti plains at Mbalageti Tented Lodge, made us dumbstruck. The rivers were incredibly low but Arnold diligently followed his instincts to try and get us to see a big crossing somewhere along our journey. It never happened. The changing global weather patterns prompted the migration to start a few weeks before we arrived.
However, every day we saw thousands of confused herds of Wildebeest and an unexpected hundreds of thousands of Zebra moving in every direction. We were mesmerized by the closeness to animals eating, resting, hunting, fighting and even lions mating. We saw two nocturnal Crested Porcupines heading out on a dawn drive and an elusive/nocturnal Serval Cat hunting in broad daylight. Our last morning in Tarangeri Park, we came across two Verreaux Owls in different trees. It’s pretty hard to spot one and we saw two. And the mama Cheetah hunting to feed her four cubs was a big highlight. Going through our photos we saw and captured far more than we realized.
Our balloon flight over the Serengeti on our anniversary was spectacular. We highly recommend you add it to your trip. And our special anniversary celebration with champagne and gifts that night at our favorite accommodation, Seronera Sametu Camp, was a wonderful surprise from the staff. Our visit to the Masai village was very educational and well worth taking a break from our morning game drive to experience. Our stop at F.A.M.E., en route to Tarangire Park, was very moving and inspirational. This is a cause worthy of donations from every person who travels with ADS.
And lastly our surprise farewell celebration at Kikoti Tented Lodge, complete with the staff dancing and singing while presenting us with a “Welcome Again” cake, made our trip’s ending very special and sadly, all too real.
We’ve done safaris in other countries on the African continent and without hesitation, highly recommend Africa Dream Safaris (which we’ve already started to do!) to everyone we know planning a safari in Tanzania. The professionalism and genuine personal interest in customer satisfaction was over the top. We made the right choice with ADS and can’t thank Sharon and Arnold enough for ALL the special touches added to make this our best safari ever!
Gayle & Sandra
Safari Dates: October 20, 2013 to November 1, 2013
Africa Dream Safaris helps fund the Serengeti Lion Project’s ongoing conservation efforts. In turn, periodic reports are prepared exclusively for Africa Dream Safaris by the on-site researchers for the Serengeti Lion Project. So you won’t find this info anywhere else!
Since there are MANY lion prides in the Serengeti, we picked 6 specific study prides to focus on. Talk about having the inside scoop! These Serengeti Lion Project researchers live, sleep, and work out in the bush every single day, so they are able to offer invaluable information about the location and adventures of our favorite lions.
Reading like a soap opera at times, we think you will also enjoy the real-life drama and adventures of these awesome animals as they live, hunt, and raise their families together in the harsh African wilderness. So what new adventures have our favorite lions been up to lately? Continue reading below for our latest report dated November 1st!
By Daniel Rosengren / Field Biologist with the Serengeti Lion Project
It’s November 1, 2013 and about a month ago we were running out of water at the Lion Research House. At the Serengeti Lion Project our only source of water is rainwater collected from the roof of our house. We use it for drinking, cooking, washing and cleaning. The gutters lead down into big water tanks all around the house. Now we were down to only one tank with water and just a few liters remaining in the bottom of the tank. One morning a baboon managed to open the tap to get a few mouthfuls of water in the dry weather. But he was not considerate enough to close the tank afterward and the rest drained out and disappeared down the ground, making bees and butterflies happy. The rainy season wasn’t expected in another couple of months, at least.
Just when we were getting really desperate for water, the Matabele Ants, living under the house, decided to move their eggs to a higher situated location. This is usually a sure sign that rain is on the way. Sure enough, the next day it started raining and we got at least some rain every day for a weeks time. Sometimes it was pouring down filling our tanks in the hundreds of liters. In the end of the week we had about 8,000 liters. We were very lucky to get that in the dry season, just when we needed it the most.
Let me introduce you to a lion pride called Simba Survivors. It’s a small pride struggling on the seasonally harsh plains near Simba Kopjes. The pride consisted of only one adult female, a young brother and sister, and three small cubs. In December 2012 the adult female died, likely in a fight with other lions. We though that the young brother and sister, Leo and Kira, could possibly survive on their own. They were only 3.5 years old and inexperienced. But but for the three cubs, only being 5 months old, we had no hope. After their mothers death all the rest disappeared and we didn’t see them again. Not until mid May 2013 when I was driving along a shallow valley on the plains, quite far from their normal territory. I saw a young male together with a small male.
At first I didn’t realize who they were. But after plowing through all the lion ID-cards I found a match with Leo and one of the small cubs. Later I also found Kira. I was amazed, not only had the young inexperienced lions managed to survive. But they had also managed to raise one of the small cubs too. The Simba Survivors has proven to be true survivors. They are still roaming around the vast plains. It seems like they haven’t settled in a territory yet.
Another pride I haven’t written about before is the Rofliondo pride. It’s a fairly recent pride that broke off from the Loliondo pride. The Rofliondo Pride is a bit of a mystery pride to us. We still haven’t managed to put a collar on any of the females and thus have to rely on luck to find them. The place they have been spotted most often is near Sametu Camp. The pride seems to consist of five females between 6 and 8 years old with five offspring. On late July though, one of the females was seen with a long lost male, TR146, from the Transect pride. They were mating. So if everything goes well there will be some new tiny lion fluff-balls born in mid November 2013. The gestation time for a lion is about 110 days.
There are lots of news from the Transect pride. In September 2010 eighteen cubs were born in the Transect pride. Fourteen of those were males! Now, just over three years old, it seems like they finally have left the pride to start a life on their own. Since we don’t have a collar on them and males from the Transect pride typically disperse to the north, out of our study area, it will be difficult knowing what they are up to. But a male coalition of fourteen is something unseen in the history of our lion project. Typically a male coalition consists of two to four lions. A coalition of fourteen could theoretically do whatever they like and crush any other competition for females. But since they then would have to share the females among themselves such a big coalition is very unlikely to persist. It’s more likely to break up into several smaller coalitions.
As for the rest of the pride it looks like they are breaking up into two separate prides. Tarragon, TR141, Pippi Långstrump, and Lotta På Bråkmakargatan are busy raising their now seven one-year-old cubs. The four young females from 2010 are now reaching an age where they can start being reproductively active. And as a matter of a fact, they have just started to solicit two males, Nisse and Sotis. These impressive males have come into our study area from the west and are already the resident males and fathers in the Mukoma Hill and Tower Hill prides. Together with these young transects are also Zico, the old grandmother born 1998. She is probably in menopause now but has valuable experience to share with the young females. Last week I also saw Madicken with this group of lions. She hasn’t been seen since June this year and she looks pregnant.
But Tarragon, Pippi Långstrump, TR141 and Lotta På Bråkmakargatan and their seven cubs better stay away from the new males. Nisse and Sotis are not the fathers of those cubs and will kill them if given the chance. That’s why we think that the Transect pride will split up. While the younger females will want to start having their own cubs as soon as possible, the older females that already has cubs still has about a year and a half before those cubs reach independent age. With different interests it makes sense to split.
The demography of the Maasai Kopje pride has changed drastically since last I wrote about them. All the really old females that were in this pride hasn’t been seen for long and are surely dead. Now Mato Keo, born in 2002, is the oldest female in the pride. Together with her is now Blixten, MK129 and Laura. They have had a small baby boom and there are now eleven cubs in the pride. But they have failed in synchronizing their litters, something lions often do to better be able to raise the cubs together. The oldest cubs are now about one year old while Blixten just introduced us to four new cubs.
The School of St Jude and Africa Dream Safaris are working together to help impoverished children in Tanzania to receive a free, high-quality education, while strengthening ADS’ humanitarian involvement in the East African community. Our monthly donation will buy 2,000 hot, nutritious meals per month for the students. Tanzania is a developing country where one-third of its population lives below the poverty line, on less than $1.25 per day. A majority of children in Tanzanian schools do not receive lunch or any food, so they cannot focus on learning when they’re hungry. St Jude’s provides daily meals for students, as well as breakfast and dinner for the over 1,100 students who live in their boarding houses. All produce is sourced from the local community.
Below is the story about a student named Eva from the School of St Jude. (Provided by SSJ)
Six years ago, young Eva’s face beamed from the cover of the autobiography of our school founder Gemma Sisia, titled ‘St Jude’s.’ Eva was a young girl who was still realizing her dreams. She epitomized the happy, bright eyed child at St Jude’s who is overjoyed about getting a free, high quality education. Now she has grown and is developing into a well-adjusted young adult. She is in Form 1 and has big aspirations, with a world of possibilities in front of her. This is her story.
Eva started at St Jude’s in 2006, when the school was just four years old and we had just over 600 students and around 115 staff. Eva’s family includes her father, John, mother, Penina and younger brothers Richard and Benjamin. They live in a two-room brick home and like many other Tanzanian dwellings, the home has no plumbing (water is collected from a neighborhood tap for a small monthly fee) and meals are prepared over a charcoal or basic kerosene-fueled stove.
To support the family, Eva’s father finds work where he can as a carpenter and a mason. Her mother works at their home as a tailor. They are big supporters of Eva’s education and encourage her to continue learning in the hope that one day she will have qualifications and a successful career so she can break the cycle of poverty for herself, help them and her community.
Eva showed promise as a capable student at a young age. As a child, she would often ask her parents to send her to a school which would enable her to learn English. “I wanted to learn English because I knew in this world of today that I needed it and I strived to get a high quality education as I wanted to have a bright future,” she said.
She grew up playing with her younger brother and their games would regularly revolve around learning. “There was one game where we liked to draw and the first one to finish was the winner. The aim of it was that you drew things, like an egg and you also wrote the name of it in English. So, I always liked to play games where I could learn new words.”
Before St Jude’s, Eva attended a government school where nearly all of her subjects were in Swahili. It was a limited learning environment where Eva felt she was not able to reach her full potential. She remembers hearing about St Jude’s at her old school and then soon applied. It was a turning point in her life.
After passing the relevant checks, she was accepted and began a new chapter of her life. “When I found out I was going to St Jude’s, I thought it was amazing and I was very happy. It meant a lot to me,” said Eva. Since then she has fulfilled a number of milestones. She successfully completed her seven years of primary schooling, has begun high school and has impressively scored A’s in almost all of her subjects. She also boards at the school’s Smith campus which is preparing her to be a strong, independent individual.
Eva’s life has been transformed because of her education. She has sponsors in Australia and is acutely aware that their support has enabled her to have clean uniforms, a place to board, fresh, nutritional food, committed teachers and access to state-of-the-art ICT laboratories and well-stocked libraries.
Research supports the assertion that sponsorship can make a huge difference in a child’s life. Bruce Wydick, an economist from the University of San Francisco carried out a study in six countries over three continents, including in Uganda and Kenya. He and his team studied more than 10-thousand individuals who had been sponsored in the 1980s. The overall result was that student sponsorship works and that 50 to 80 per cent are more likely to complete a university education.
“By sponsoring a child at St Jude’s you will change the life of that child, their family, their community and contribute to changing their country. The evidence says it works, the economics says it works and if you visit the school you can see for yourself that it works. What better way is there of using your money?” said St Jude’s School Director John Ford.
Eva, the little girl that once shyly took her first steps through the St Jude’s gates seven years ago, has grown into a happy, confident young adult. She is like any other teenager who enjoys spending time with her friends and playing card games. In a few years, Eva plans to head to university to study engineering and work in Tanzania. Like the young girl on the cover of St Jude’s, she is optimistic, loving life, has the world at her feet and ready to embrace it.