I recently got back from Tanzania…for the third time.
Three times I have stepped off that blue and white plane on the Kilimanjaro tarmac. Three times I have found my name on a hand held a place card next to an Africa Dreams Safari logo. And three times I’ve found a smiling face behind it to effortlessly shuffle me through the madness.
People often ask me why I have gone to Tanzania three times, and more specifically, why I have gone back with ADS each time.
I am a professional wildlife photographer and a filmmaker. And this trip was mostly dedicated to shooting a Safari themed film. Why Tanzania? Well, for starters, it is the best safari destination in the world in my opinion. Because of the great migration there is nowhere on the planet where you can see as many animals at one time than Tanzania…ANY time of the year. For a photographer, it is heaven on earth. Even if you are a beginning photographer…you can build an entire portfolio there in one trip.
I stumbled upon ADS before my first safari. I was a newby to Africa. It was, without doubt, the best piece of dumb luck I have ever had for so many reasons.
But you can read all about that on the dozens of other testimonials on this site, along with much praise for the Serengeti. I don’t need to rehash that. I am going to concentrate on something else here…their Guides. Because in my opinion, they may be the most important element of your trip. ADS hires the best, most experienced, most educated Guides in all of Tanzania. As one Guide told me on this trip when I asked him why he works for Africa Dreams Safaris he said “because they are the best…. and we are the best”. So true.
For this trip ADS paired me up with Raphael Mollel, one of their 20 or so Guides. Francis Peter, my previous Guide and now friend, was already on Safari with other people. In short, I was told that Raphael was “the real deal” and that I would like him. He turned out to be all of that. Raphael is not only an expert ADS driver/guide. He is also a full blown Maasai warrior.
When I found this out, I asked Raphael if I could interview him for the film I was working on. He said yes. The next morning when we headed out to the truck…Raphael was waiting, wearing full Maasai warrior clothing and a big smile. That’s just a small example of the dedication…the little touches you get with Africa Dreams Safaris. They…are the real deal. Your guide is your pilot on safari. He will expertly take you on this journey. And he will become your friend. I guarantee that.
The ADS guides are all local. They know the area, the language, the customs. And they are all educated in everything you will encounter in the Bush, from the animals and birds to the geology and the local tribes. They are english speaking Tanzanian encyclopedias with Swahili accents. We laughed, we joked, we shared experiences and we learned from each other. Along the way, we ran into my friend Francis in the Bush with his Safari. It was like seeing an old friend…even better than that.
The ADS guides are a family and when you enter into a Safari with them…you become part of that family. You’re going to spend a lot of time with your guide. And when it comes time to leave…. you are not going to want to. The Tanzanian people have a friendly way about them and you are going to become absorbed by it. It’s infectious. Your guide will become as big a part of your Safari as any of the amazing things you will see out there. And in your photo album, amongst the amazing pictures of the Lions and Giraffes and Elephants there’s going to be a picture of you with your arm around your Guide. Ask anyone who’s been there with ADS. It just happens. Francis is in mine…so is Raphael.
So read on. So many people have beautifully captured the essence of their Safaris in the testimonials on this website. Although words and pictures don’t really do it justice… you have to experience it to really “feel” it. And when you’re out there, sitting around a campfire talking about your Guide with whoever you are with, you’ll say to them (about this article) “you know…that guy was right”.
Jeff S. and Chris L.
Pineville, North Carolina
Safari Dates: March 7, 2015 to March 16, 2015
We want to thank Africa Dream Safari (ADS) for a most wonderful lifetime experience. From the moment we got off the plane in the Central Serengeti we were seeing all kinds of animals. Right when we thought we had seen it all, the next day brought a new and exciting experience and each day was a new adventure. It was so wonderful to see all the animals in their natural habitat on our game drives. They were so close you could almost touch them!
Russell, our guide and driver was extremely well educated and experienced. Our Land Cruiser was very comfortable and Russell drove cautiously at all times. Russell provided in depth details of everything we saw, from the big 5, to reptiles, to insects, birds and so much more. He took the time to answer all of our never ending questions. We learned so much in such a short period of time.
We were treated like royalty everywhere we stayed and we were well taken care of from the moment we got off the plane to the moment we boarded our plane home. The accommodations were so fantastic – really over the top – and the food was fantastic. Our safety was a priority from all staff we encountered.
Tanzanians are very kind and wonderful. ADS is extremely professional and provided us with the highest quality experience not only on the Safari but in all the preplanning that went into our trip. We both rate ADS a 10 out of 10 and recommend ADS to anyone wanting to experience a high quality personal safari.
Cynthia and Cary N.
Safari Dates: March 26, 2015 to April 4, 2015
Let’s face it. An African safari is a big trip for most people. It’s an endeavor which requires a significant investment of time, energy and money. This really is a “once in a lifetime” type of experience for many folks who may never get the opportunity to go back to Africa again, so naturally everyone wants to get it right the first time.
“What time of year is the BEST time of year to go on safari?” seems like a critical question, especially because so many places in Africa (and other parts of the world) can be so seasonal. You just don’t want to miss out on anything important simply because you lacked the necessary information to plan it right.
Well, here’s the good news: As long as you are working with a knowledgeable safari company that understands the wildlife patterns, there really is NO BAD TIME TO GO ON SAFARI in Northern Tanzania, especially with regards to Serengeti National Park. I know that all sounds too good to be true; how could it be so easy? But it is!
Cue *sigh of relief!*
Here’s why: Even though many of the animals in this region of Tanzania are migratory, meaning they move from one area to another throughout the year, they do follow a fairly predictable pattern and most importantly they are always *there*, it is just a matter of knowing where to go to find them. And WE DO. Therefore we strategically design your itinerary to put your where the animals are, setting you up for success no matter what time of year you ultimately go on safari.
PLUS the wonderfully mild climate in Northern Tanzania (semi-arid and sunny with average highs in the 80s) helps to make it a comfortable place to visit all year long.
Some noteworthy events include the great wildebeest calving that occurs during February, and the crossing of the great Mara River that can occur almost anytime during the dry season, usually crossing the river multiple times between late July and early November. But rest assured, there is no shortage of drama to be found in the Serengeti at any time of year, as long as you are focusing your time in the right areas where the greatest number of animals are concentrated according to the season.
Even though each month of the year is special and brimming with unique wildlife viewing opportunities, it may still be worthwhile to understand some of the subtle differences in the various seasons throughout the year, which can be loosely lumped into two primary categories here in Northern Tanzania: the “green season” and the “dry season.”
GREEN SEASON (Dec-May):
The scenery is green and beautiful during this time (great colors for photography) and the animals are generally healthy and active as the green season is a time of plenty for them. Many animals time the birth of their families to coincide with the green season too, so you will be maximizing your chance to see baby animals, especially with regards to the herbivores that rely on the new grass shoots such gazelle fawns, zebra foals and various species of calves. The green season is one of the best times to see cheetahs (my favorite animal) as you will game drive Gol Kopjes in the green season, as well as the NCA, which are favorite hangouts for cheetahs because of the open plains, short grass, and ample supply of Thompson’s gazelle (their favorite prey.)
The Great Migration of wildebeest and zebra will be densely concentrated on the open Southern Serengeti plains, offering a stunning spectacle you won’t soon forget. The wildebeest usually have their babies in February (roughly 80% are born in Feb), making March , April, and May all excellent times to safari. As you can imagine, many of the great predators are never far away from this great moving buffet, so in addition to cheetahs you’ll have lots of opportunities to see lions, leopards, and hyenas too. There is a chance for rain showers during this time of year, especially in late March and April (that’s where the “green” comes from), but because of the semi-arid climate here, seldom does it rain enough to compromise one’s safari experience in any significant way.
DRY SEASON (June-Nov):
With hardly any rainfall during this time of year, the weather and associated driving conditions are fairly predictable, and the grass and foliage are sparse which can make it a bit easier to spot some of the more elusive wildlife such as the big cats. The weather is also at it’s coolest during this time, with average temperature highs peaking in the low-mid 80’s. The Great Migration will be surging through the pristine Northern Serengeti, which is an inherently beautiful area full of trees and other pretty scenery, so it’s rather convenient when the animals are located in such a beautiful area because this is the area where you will want to spend a large amount of time, and you can enjoy both animals and scenery!
Some areas like the Tarangire River will also be a huge draw to thirsty animals like elephants when smaller water sources have disappeared. You can see literally hundreds of elephants gathered around the Tarangire river when it’s dry here. Downsides to the dry season include more dust and small accommodations can book up quicker during the months of July and August since many people in the US and Europe travel during their summer. But still, because of the nice weather, lovely scenery and consistently good wildlife viewing, the dry season is a pleasant and fairly predictable time to plan a safari. As mentioned previously, it hardly rains at all during the dry season.
Check out these reviews and discussions from prior safari guests to get their thoughts on the best time of year for a safari in Tanzania.
Happy planning and enjoy your safari! No matter what time of year you go!