I had some trepidation about Africa

My husband George is prone to sudden and unusual ideas, but this latest one – an African safari – seemed extreme even for George. Until recently, our vacations were typically spent in a pool in Mexico or driving across a handful of states in a motor home. I had some trepidation about Africa at first but couldn’t have put my finger on what there was to be afraid of! Dawn at Africa Dream Safaris was so responsive to our questions, and was so clear that ADS is a “class act”, that any concerns were quickly replaced by excited anticipation.

ADS had every base covered from the moment we booked our trip. In the months leading up to our departure date, Dawn continued to be a great source of help and information. The ADS handbook and website were great resources as well. I was impressed by the fact that every picture that appears in ADS materials and on the website was taken on an actual ADS safari.

When the day finally came and our ride to the airport pulled in the driveway, my phone rang with a message that our first flight was cancelled. The only way to reschedule our air was to postpone the trip for an entire day. One call to ADS (which I later realized was at an absurdly early hour at their California office) resulted in an efficient flip flop of our itinerary to accommodate the later arrival yet still be able to see all the areas we’d planned.

Of all the incredible moments and sights, one of my favorites was our first giraffe. He was close to the road, yet hidden at first in some tree cover. When Elson pointed him out and we saw him, I think we both audibly gasped. Exotic, beautiful, and almost dinosaur-like in his hugeness. For the rest of the week, I just adored the giraffes and how they would casually appraise us for a few minutes before they loped away in their clumsy yet strangely elegant way.

We observed lions numerous times during the week. We watched to our hearts content a mother lion and three cubs. She dozed while they played, she snarled at them when they annoyed her. From just a couple feet away, we watched a male lion keenly watch a lone baby wildebeest as it traversed a dry lakebed. Interested, but not interested enough to bother himself with the wildebeest, after several minutes he walked off roaring and grunting.

For two full days near Ndutu and in the southern Serengeti, we were a part of the wildebeest migration. The vast numbers of the wildebeest and zebras are astonishing, and it is amazing to be among them, to be surrounded on all sides, stretching nearly as far as the eye can see in all directions. We watched two male Grants gazelles lock horns, with the dominant one pushing the other one at least 50 yards. We also saw hyena, elephant, jackal, mongoose, warthog, hippo, cheetah with cubs, leopard, topi (I loved these guys with their tall yellow boots). It seemed everywhere you looked was something surprising or delightful.

Through all of this, Elson volunteered his incredible knowledge of all these animals, what they were doing, and why. I don’t think we asked him a single question he didn’t know the answer to. He noticed I enjoyed keeping track of all the different birds we saw, and he was even able to identify all of them. He also answered questions about the local and African culture. Throughout the week, he was often in radio contact with other guides and if there was a leopard in a certain place or a particular thing of interest, he would know where it was.

The lodging was excellent. The food was very good, and every lodge accommodated our requests for early breakfast so we could leave for our game drives before dawn. Box lunches were good as well. Because they don’t know your personal tastes, each one contained more items and options than a person could possibly eat. We made sure we saved our extras for the park rangers or the Maasai children who would run from the fields with outstretched hands.

I understand April is viewed as the slow season due to the rains but it seemed a wonderful time of year to go. Everything was green, flowers were in bloom, and many of the animals had young offspring.

We’ve been home a month now and we are still in awe of how amazing this trip was. We own a restaurant/bar, and one of the TVs runs a continuous slide show of the photos we took. The customers love it! Countless people have thanked us for sharing them and they are just incredulous over how close we were to these animals, as well as how many different animals we saw. Many people have asked whether we ever felt we were in danger; again, I suppose that is because until you’ve been there, Africa seems so far, so foreign. In answer to that question, there wasn’t a single moment on the trip that we felt even mildly uncomfortable. However, I am very glad we had ADS guides as there is no way I would have wanted to try to negotiate the streets of Arusha and other towns on our own.

Another question we hear from friends and customers is “Where are you going to go next?” I simply can’t answer that because I don’t know how we could ever top this trip. It was that special.

Susan and George VanKersen
Traverse City, Michigan
April 2012

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