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
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.
Safari Dates: September 12, 2015 to September 26, 2015
Our eight-day safari with ADS was the trip of a lifetime for my family and me. I cannot say enough about the company, people and experiences ADS delivered to us for this trip. We did a six-day safari in the Serengeti and two days at the Ngorongoro Crater. The trip was perfect. It surpassed all of our expectations. We made this trip with our family of six, my wife’s parents, and my brother. From the start of the trip to the final hours at the Mount Meru Hotel in Arusha, we had an incredible experience that we will never forget. I am so pleased to be able share some details of our trip with anyone who will listen.
I have dreamed of an African safari since I was a teenager. I am now 48 years old and my dream finally came to fruition in July 2015. After months of planning, we finally arrived in Tanzania, Africa at the Kilimanjaro Airport. We were immediately greeted by Mathias, Precious, and Timmon. We felt comfortable from that moment until we were delivered back to the airport by the same group in addition to one of our Safari guides, Ema.
We flew on a bush plane to the Seronera Airstrip and our Safari began there. On the very first day, we saw a pride of lions, gazelles, leopards, topi, hippos, elephants, giraffes, ostriches, and zebras. We also met our guides, Arnold and Ema, with whom we would spend the next eight days and become fast friends. They were nothing short of incredible. They were knowledgeable, patient, experienced, and of course friendly.
We saw one lion pride on the first day with 17 lions. Naturally, we hoped and expected to see many African animals. What we were not prepared for, however, was the sheer number of animals in the Serengeti. At one point, Ema estimated that we were looking at over six hundred thousand wildebeests in the Massai Mara. Also, the vast space and size of the Serengeti is absolutely spectacular. Words cannot adequately describe the vastness of the space. We could see for miles in many directions with not a power line, telephone pole, cellular tower, or other indication of civilization to spoil the view. This was impressive to say the least.
Over the next seven days, we saw many of the same animals but also impala, warthogs, cheetahs, a rhino, jackals, crocodiles, wildebeests, vultures, storks, a python, a black mamba, and a rare treat, a caracal chasing a rabbit in the crater. The animals were 10, 20, and 30 yards away. Sometimes, they were just outside of our vehicle within an arms length.
Africa Dream Safaris set us up with accommodations that cannot possibly be rivaled. We stayed at the most luxurious lodge I can imagine in the middle of the Serengeti wilderness. We could see wildlife from our showers. The pool overlooked a watering hole at which elephants, zebras, baboons, waterbuck, and various other animals came to drink on our first night there. It seemed like African Disneyland to all of us. We had to laugh out loud because we did not know what else to do.
From that point forward, to our amazement, the lodging seemed to actually improve. It does not seem possible, but that is how we felt. We moved toward the north end of the Serengeti to catch the great migration. Our last night on the rim of the crater was the best night, according to some of my family. This was a tent lodge but we were not “roughing it.” We had hot showers, tent heaters, a four-course dinner, and friendly service. On that note, every single person we met along the way could not have been friendlier and more courteous to my family.
I cannot leave out that one night we sat atop a raised wooden deck while watching hippos below and a rainstorm moving across the hills of the Serengeti. I wish I could have a life-size painting of that scene because it was breathtaking.
Although every part of our trip was excellent, there were some high points that stick out in my mind. Near the Mara River, we watched a black rhino for about 30 minutes. Then, it started to approach one of our vehicles. It raised its tail and charged. Our expert guide, Arnold, immediately started the engine of the Land Cruiser and drove away skillfully. It is something we will never forget.
We also saw the crossing of the wildebeests at the Mara River. Emmanuel, our other expert guide, helped us get into a prime position to observe this spectacular event. The wildebeests were crossing from north to south. A small group of wildebeests came down river and started to cross right in front of us. My 16-year-old son exclaimed “Oh no, a crocodile.” At that point, an 18-foot Nile crocodile took down a 300-pound wildebeest in the middle of the river right before our eyes. The wildebeest never came up. The adrenaline in my family was flowing like I cannot recall. It was a truly unforgettable thing to witness.
What a Difference a Vowel Makes
On a humorous note, we learned the difference (the hard way) between two Swahili words. “Jambo” means hello in Swahili. For the first four or five days, about half of my family was saying “Jumbo” and half was saying “Jamba.” Finally, one of our guides sheepishly informed us that “Jamba” means flatulence. We all had a good laugh and made sure of the correct pronunciation from that point forward.
Final Words of Appreciation
As a father of four children, it was very special for me to take my wife and kids to Africa to experience my dream along with me. My eyes were treated to unbelievable visual displays every day if not every half hour. However, my ears were also treated to sounds that I must mention. I was able to hear my two daughters who are now 21 and 19 gasping with excitement as we saw each new animal. They would actually audibly suck in their breath in amazement. I have not heard that sound from them in over 10 years since they were little girls. I will never forget those sounds.
ADS truly helped me to fulfill my lifelong dream. The only problem for me now is deciding when to go back.
Kelly and Laura C.
Caroline, Courtney, Kyle and Luke
Safari Dates: July 27, 2015 to August 3, 2015