I Will Never Be Able To Enjoy A Zoo Again

As it is now several months from returning from one of most amazing trips in our live, it still feels like yesterday when my husband and I (along with two of our friends) were standing in a safari vehicle in awe of the beautiful wildlife. I am still in the process of going through over 1,000 photos – stopping and remembering as each photo was taken. The Mark Twain quote that is at the end of Africa Dream Safaris’ video clip, “Life is not measured by the amount of breaths we take…but by the moments that take our breath away” is very profound. And I can truly say I’ve experienced that moment!

The amount of planning and attention to detail that the entire staff of Africa Dream Safaris (ADS) is superb! From the initial planning process with Dawn Anderson stepping us through ever last bit (it was about 1-year in the planning stages) to saying goodbye at the airport curbside in Kilimanjaro – it was about as worry-free travel as it could be and it made the long journey from San Francisco to Kilimanjaro almost effortless. (Also, special kudos to the Arusha team who had to help with a flight segment from Nairobi to Kilimanjaro!!!). The information that is sent (in the planning binder and the handy-dandy “handbook”) is spot-on! I couldn’t study each of them enough and even with questions, all were answered by ADS!

Even with the flight from Arusha to the Serengeti airstrip was amazing – seeing jeep trails, animals from the air and the stunning geography. As we landed on the dirt airstrip warthogs running across the runway greeted us. Within an hour of getting in the safari jeep, we saw lions hunting, a leopard, and zebra – now that’s an amazing way to start a safari! Our spectacular guide, Fazal, saw our excitement and said that we would be in for more “ah ha” moments…he was certainly right!

We joked that he must have had a magical button on his steering wheel that had all of the animals – because as we would be in conversation about a specific species, low and behold…it would appear within a ½ hour of mention. We had our list (along with the one printed in the back of handbook) of animals we wanted to see. He made the entire experience very memorable and in speaking to others in the tented lodges in the evening, we really realized how special of a guide we had! He pretty much knows every watering hole, rock out crop and tree that the animals frequent.

Me, not being the “camping” type – enjoyed the luxury tented lodges. I can sort of boast that I “camped” in the Serengeti, but after revealing the photos of the two beautiful tented lodges we stayed at (Mbuzi Mawe and Lake Masek), I would be quickly corrected that “I wasn’t really roughing it.” The last night in the Ngorongoro Crater Lodge was beyond opulent. I actually don’t think there’s a word that could do it justice. My only disappointment of this entire safari is that we couldn’t stay at the Ngorongoro Crater Lodge longer!

At all of the places, the staff was friendly and the scenery was amazing. It did take me about 2-3 nights to get a good nights sleep – not because I wasn’t comfortable, rather I wanted to stay up and hear all of the animal noises and didn’t want to miss anything. We had vervet monkeys run up and across our tents, two elephants come very close for their evening dinner off nearby bushes and frequent post-dinner encounters with buffalo grazing. The food was very enjoyable. Taking boxed meals for breakfast & lunch was handy and it did allow us to stay in the field longer. It was nice to actually pull off and eat picnic style. Only once did we loose part of our lunch from a very bold vervet monkey who jumped into the vehicle and took off with a bag of apples.

I will never be able to really enjoy zoos again – being able to get so close to all of the animals! I loved that we would actually not be rushed and spend time observing personalities and traits of the animals. Very often we would be the first vehicle observing an animal (and the other tour safari vehicles would see us and make a bee-line to us). But more often, we would be the only vehicle around – not seeing another vehicle for hours! The variety and closeness to the animals is something I’ll never forget. In Ngorongoro Crater, two lions (one male, one female) were napping in the middle of the road and when vehicles pulled up to observer, they got up not to walk away, but to take advantage of the shade the vehicles could provide. I still won’t forget looking down on top of a lion’s head, holding my breath, to just listen to it breathe.

The remoteness was something to get used to – thinking it would be a very long walk if we broke down. ADS’s vehicles are beautifully maintained and we would giggle each morning, as the clean vehicle would pick us up only to know that we would find a huge mud puddle within an hour. Three times, we came to the aid of other vehicles that were broken down. Our extraordinary guide was like “MacGyver” (for those of you who remember this TV series – the guy who could fix his way out of anything).

I love telling this story about coming to the aid of a vehicle that clearly had a broken radiator (water puddle under the hood). It was before lunch, so we had our boxed lunches uneaten. Fazal asked if he could take a few hardboiled eggs to the broken vehicle. That’s fine – we’ll give them food – we thought…but as we watched Fazal, he was peeling the hardboiled eggs and cutting them up. He began stuffing the eggs in the radiator hose, poured water and asked the other driver to start the car to rev the engine. Water continued to pour out from underneath, but Fazal didn’t give up. He tried this a few more times, with several more eggs. Then the water stopped dripping. Fazal explained that as the heat of the engine increased, it made the eggs congeal and plug the hole in the radiator. So there…now you know if you have a broken radiator – just toss in a few eggs. Or as he said, elephant dung would have worked, too. (Didn’t have any of that near by). The other vehicle went merrily on their way, with a few extra water bottles from us and thankful they weren’t spending the night stranded.

Timing of our safari was in the spring – in the midst of the Great Migration. It is indeed “Great”. The temperatures were very pleasant and being from the Bay Area, knew we wouldn’t tolerate high summer heat. We are so glad that we used ADS for this trip! I can’t wait to get back to Tanzania again. I loved it so much, I am planning on a Kilimanjaro climbing trek and then treating myself to a post-climb safari. I’ll be back in touch with ADS!

Kindest Regards,

Nanette Nanjo-Jones
Pacifica, California
April 2011

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