My African Adventure
Our recent safari was fantastic, but I realized soon that seeing the animals was only part of the experience. As important for us was the service and attention to safety that Africa Dream Safaris provided us. Our questions and inquiries in the planning stages were immediately answered; we were met as we got off the plane for help in navigating the chaotic Visa process after we’d spent 24 hours traveling; we were given a cell phone to use in the event of an emergency; and the skill, professionalism and warm personality of our guide inspired confidence for the entire trip.
Our guide was phenomenal. So many times, he anticipated the movement of the animals and positioned our vehicle for maximum viewing. We had front row seats when others were struggling to see. He could spot animals when we could only see grass. We created our own roads in search of elusive animals and we were never disappointed. And with his guidance, we were able to see the big 5 within 3 days – now that was exciting! And every time he would say “hakuna matata” I would remind myself that he wasn’t quoting The Lion King, The Lion King had quoted him!
This was an incredible adventure and we booked the trip based on recommendations from friends who had gone last year. If we were to do another safari, it would only be with ADS because of how they took care of us, how flexible everyone was and the value of the experience. Thank you Africa Dream Safaris.
It’s the vacation you need if you want to:
• spot the “big 5” – leopards, rhinos, lions, cape buffalos, elephants in just 3 days;
• witness tens of thousands of wildebeest and zebra, in a single line that extends to forever, creating a shadow where the earth meets the sky;
• laugh at a pool of 200 hippos enjoying their early morning play;
• smile as the giraffes munch on the trees next to your tent;
• chuckle when mama elephant gives her calf a gentle nudge to get back in line;
• admire the gentle and swift leaps of the Thompson gazelle and the Grant gazelle and be able to tell the difference;
• marvel at the “step in time” movements of flamingos as they search for food;
• escort a lioness to a nearby rock as she takes the road and forces you to the side;
• witness mother leopards and cheetahs teaching their young cubs the art of survival;
• study how an ostrich body can be supported by such scrawny legs;
• watch in amazement at the effortless synchronized swimming of pelicans;
• giggle like a 12 year old the first time you spot the blue balled monkeys – they are brilliant blue, trust me;
• observe the taunts of lion cubs as they play with each other, mother watching from a distance
Probably as memorable as the sights were the sounds we heard. The loud crunch of teeth on bones and laughing cackle of hyenas as they completely and recklessly devoured a fresh kill; the mating roars of both the male and female lions – 3 times in 20 minutes, 20 feet from the truck; the movement of tiny legs as the dung beetles rolled their new home; the muffled hoof beats of running wildebeests as they crossed the road in front of us; the flap of the vulture’s wings as they challenged hyenas for carcass remains; the gentle swish of water as the giant crocodile took an early morning glide; the snorts, grunts and groans from the warthogs, wildebeests, and hippos, but my favorite – the zebra that mimicked a pesky barking dog; the rhythmic breathing and munching of the elephants who nibbled on the grass alongside our tent in the middle of the night, and the knock knock of their tusks along our tent posts. (Not to be confused with my own, irregular, trembling breathing and cursing. I remember saying “I never thought I would go like this”.)
We traversed the Serengeti National Park and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area in Tanzania with their “vast expanses of highland plains, savanna, savanna woodlands and forests” in a one and a half ton, 7 passenger Land Rover with the canvas top rolled back for maximum viewing. We stood and looked out over the top whenever we could, and I became one with my hat very early on. There were just two of us on our own private safari, and I’m glad it was just us – it would have made “nature breaks” all the more challenging. We traveled light – just 3 changes of clothes in our carry-on luggage; we had laundry mid-trip. Foolishly, in about hour 6 of the first day, I asked if I could just get out and take a little walk to stretch my legs. Clearly, I’d already lost my mind – no, I couldn’t go out for a little walk – I was in one of the world’s largest playgrounds for some of the world’s largest and fiercest animals. So for the next nine days, I took my walk between the other 6 seats in the vehicle.
As much as this was about spotting and watching the movements of magnificent animals, it was also a huge lesson about culture for me. Included in the safari was a visit to a Maasai village or boma. I’ve long had a distant fascination with these nomadic people, and I was really excited for this. The homes are made of grass and cow dung and the beds are suspended animal skins. Young women are the builders. The village we visited had about 15 homes, all in a circle, all with their openings facing south to protect against strong winds. The herd of cattle and goats are brought into the middle of the boma for safe keeping.
But their practices are very difficult for me to comprehend – their diet consists primarily of milk, meat and blood; they circumcise both boys and girls in their mid/late teens; they drink of the same pond where they and the animals bathe and play. English and math are the only 2 subjects taught in the pre-school we visited, with the boys and girls separated on different sides of the room. When the cattle have exhausted the grazing opportunities on the surrounding land, the Maasai leave and find another area to make home for a while.
Prior to the official start of our safari, we met with Jennifer, originally from East Lansing. Kathy knows her parents from church and Jennifer has now started an NGO (nonprofit) in Arusha to help teach women how to make beaded sandals. If all goes as planned, these women will now earn and manage their own money so they won’t have to turn their children over to an orphanage for care. In addition, as part of the NGO, a preschool with 58 children was starting the week we were there. The sights, sounds and smells Jennifer exposed us to will have a lasting impression upon me forever. http://shiningalight.org/ is the website for her NGO.
Pam and Kathy