Our Goal Was To Photograph The Big Cats Of The Serengeti

This was our first safari to Tanzania and we are already planning to return. It is impossible to put into words what this trip meant to us. What an incredible privilege we felt to share time with an amazing array of animals. The moment we stepped off the short flight from Arusha to the Central Serengeti, herds of wildebeest and zebra surrounded us as they joined the great migration.

Within the hour we located an elephant herd bathing in a watering hole. Across from them a lion pride with cubs guarded a zebra kill beneath an acacia tree. Another large herd of elephants approached the lions – who scattered and regrouped as the elephants passed. We never knew what would happen moment to moment. Our guide, David, showed a deep respect for the wildlife and anticipated their behavior.

Our goal was to locate and photograph the “big cats” and their cubs. David succeeded in locating hundreds of lions, 14 cheetah and 10 leopards during our trip – and so much more. Each day we departed camp at sunrise and returned at sunset – relating the day’s adventures at camp.

Included is a selection of images but you can see all my images at: http://truettimageworks.photoshelter.com/#!/portfolio/G0000cnOfbbLxGS0

Here are a few memorable moments from our trip:

- Being serenaded by two male lions on either side of our tent one evening…followed by a voice competition held by hyenas the next evening

- Spending two days with the Sametu lion pride; watching a female lion take down a Thompson gazelle and carry it to her two cubs hiding in the tall grass

- Observing all of the adult females of the Sametu pride simultaneously stand up, turn and drive out a juvenile male lion

- Sharing an early morning with a female cheetah watching over her three active cubs as they climbed a tree and frolicked in the grass and then race across the plain to catch a gazelle

- Being watched by two curious lion cubs as their mother relaxed atop a nearby termite mound

- Encountering a creature for the first time: hyrax, mongoose, bush baby, genet, agama lizard – even the tsetse fly (ouch) – innumerable wondrous birds, from ostriches to bee eaters

- After arriving in the East Serengeti, we found smaller prides of lion and many of the kopjes were crowned with male lions perched on the highest rocks overlooking the vast plains.

- Because we decided what was important to us, we were able to spend a full day tracking another female cheetah and her three juvenile cubs from a distance as she hunted gazelle in the South Serengeti plains.

- On our way back to Lake Masek Tented Lodge, David alerted us to watch for “dangling tails” from the trees along the river; shortly thereafter, he accelerated the vehicle across the river bed and located a large male leopard draped over a branch next to his zebra kill high up in a tree. We were soon joined by other vehicles as sunset fast approached. After 20 minutes, the leopard jumped to the ground to roll on his back under an acacia shrub – seeming to ignore the attention of the photographers.

- The next morning, at the “magic hour,” we were the only vehicle to return to the same tree to photograph the leopard in the perfect morning light. If we had been on a group safari on a set schedule – we never would have had that opportunity. David frequently shared information with the other guides and when one of his friends sent word that two young leopard cubs had exited their cave atop a tall kopji, we raced across the plain to view the mother leopard with her playing cubs. It was another perfect morning we will never forget.

- At the Ngorongoro crater, we encountered cape buffalo, wildebeest, zebra, gazelle – but also black-maned male lions and black rhinos. David explained that these rhinos are guarded from poachers around the clock. The cloud-rimmed crater formed a perfect backdrop for photos.

- While driving down the rim of the crater, we narrowly missed an elephant as it burst onto the road from the trees directly in front of us and charged downhill to the crater floor. When we arrived at the bottom, a particularly large elephant with huge tusks approached our vehicle, David cautioned us to keep very still. She was merely curious.

- At our final camp, our Massai warrior guard spotted a small black mamba snake on the path enroute to dinner – which he gently nudged aside with his spear. That same evening, we were treated to a chorus of bush babies as they hopped along the tree tops.

- The elephants sightings along the vast swamps and waterholes were particularly spectacular in Tarangire.

- During our final evening, as we pulled up to the entrance of Swala camp, David spotted a young female leopard sitting on top of an impala twice her size. Everyone at camp had heard a commotion of birds in the area just 15 minutes prior and were excited to see Brendan’s photo of the young leopard, successful in her hunt. We toasted to that leopard that night – a perfect finale to our safari.

As David shared his vast knowledge of the Serengeti ecosystem and its wildlife, our appreciation for every aspect of our safari grew. We learned a great deal about the animals and their struggles for survival firsthand. Anyone lucky enough to join an Africa Dreams safari cannot help but be astounded by the diversity of wildlife and majesty of the Serengeti.


We Knew We Had To Bring Our Children For A 2nd Safari

With ADS’s help, my wife and I had first visited Tanzania in January 2011. We were speechless at the Serengeti beauty, the animals, the accommodations and the whole trip! Immediately, we knew we had to bring our children.

This experience was something that they would remember their entire lives and the planning began. We were finally able to organize the family safari for December 2015 and it was awesome. Once again, ADS did a fantastic job. From the moment we touched down in Kilimanjaro to the moment we left, ADS had organized the entire trip to perfection.

We’d tried to describe to the kids what we had experienced in our first trip, but words cannot do it justice. As the bush plane landed at Ndutu, our kids were glued to the airplane windows watching the zebras, wildebeests and giraffes grazing along the runway. You could see it in their eyes, this would be a trip like nothing they’d ever experienced before.

Our guides, Anglebert and Emmanuel, were exceptional. Their knowledge of the terrain, animals, culture and country was a huge part of the trip. By the end of the first day, we felt like we’d known them for years and they were friends of the family. Our accommodations (all three tent camps) were outstanding.

You can’t believe that you could be treated so well out in the bush! ADS did a great job organizing our trip and should we be able to visit Tanzania again…ADS will be our first call!

With much gratitude for your efforts,

Bill and Sarah V.
Evansville, Indiana
December 22, 2015 to December 29, 2015

Wow, Just Wow.

Words cannot begin to describe the experience we had on our safari, and pictures cannot capture the spectacular sights we saw. Although our expectations for the adventure were very high going into the trip, the reality greatly exceeded those lofty expectations.

Of course, we went to see the wildlife, but we were blown away by the number and variety of animals that we experienced. From the time we arrived until the time we left, it seemed that we were surrounded by animals. We were fortunate to see the Big 5 – lions, leopards, elephants, buffalo, and rhinoceros (on the last day in the Ngorongoro Crater) – and they were certainly a highlight of the trip, but they weren’t the only highlights…not even close.

The wildebeest were absolutely incredible. The sheer numbers were impressive, but we also had the pleasure to see three river crossings, which were an absolutely amazing experience. Zebras were another constant companion throughout our trip. The gangly elegance of the giraffes was amazing. The myriad varieties of gazelle and antelope were beautiful. Hippos, crocs, monkeys, baboons, warthog, hyrax, klipspringer, jackal, hyena, and so many other fascinating creatures added surprising color to our trip.

Birds were an unexpected surprise throughout the trip. The variety of colorful birds – large and small – was impressive. Vultures, eagles, buzzards, kites, and owls were fun additions to our list of sightings. And, one of the highlights of our trip was being charged (more funny than scary) by a large male ostrich protecting a female ostrich and a brood of chicks.

The cats were an awesome part of the experience. We saw lions literally every day. The adults were impressive, and we got to experience the excitement of a few hunts, but the number of cubs we saw was an unexpected surprise. Cheetahs were sleek, elegant, beautiful creatures. But, our favorite cat was the leopard. Those powerful, sleek creatures were beautiful beyond belief.

The accommodations throughout the trip were fantastic. We stayed in two tented lodges – Lemala Kuria Hills and Buffalo Luxury Camp – but don’t be fooled by the “tent” term. The rooms are finely appointed and very comfortable – the true definition of glamping. The Four Seasons Serengeti is a five star resort in the middle of the Serengeti with an incredible infinity pool overlooking a watering hole that attracts wildlife of all kinds. The Crater Lodge was a funky, fun lodge with an incredible view of the Ngogongoro Crater. And, the Manor at Ngorongoro – overlooking a beautiful coffee plantation – was a fine, elegant end to our safari.

We cannot thank our guide – Michael – enough. He was a wealth of knowledge, an incredible animal spotter, and a fun companion throughout the trip. We will never forget him, and we cannot thank him enough.

At the close of our trip, we took a couple of extra days to relax in Zanzibar. It was a great way to unwind and reflect on the wonder of our adventure. Ahh…

Asante sana (Thank you, very much), ADS. It was the trip of a lifetime.

Ed and Doris P.
Evanston, Illinois
Safari Dates: September 12, 2015 to September 26, 2015