A Life Changing Event

My family and I have been back three weeks and finally all got together, reliving our experiences of “the Trip”. The seven of us are still trying to process our feelings. The Trip was incredible and there is something surreal about being back home, after 10 breathtaking days in the Serengeti and Tanzania.

Lodging: Our Trip was from May 15 to May 24. Two days were spent doing the classic camping. Though I have camped outdoors in past years, it was nothing like the ADS experience. We were completely in touch with the Serengeti. The classic camping staff worked for four days before we arrived to set up our accommodations. Everything was provided, including wet, warm wash cloths and fresh juice when we came in from Safari. A fire ring was set up, blazing with chairs setting around it, with services of any drink we wanted (a cold beer hit the spot after a full day on Safari—try the Tusker beer).

One evening one of the staff members shared with us his experiences in the Serengeti—a story, and the method of telling the story, is forever etched in our minds. Dinner was served at 7:30 PM with a beautiful place settings and wonderful food. One night was Tanzanian food, which we all enjoyed. Breakfasts were feasts.

Sleeping in the Serengeti is something I will never forget. The sounds are spine tingling. During our first night in the classic camp, a herd of 20 elephants came through the camp, mere feet (like 3) from our tents. The second night, a hyena drank from the washbasin in front of my tent—less than 10 feet from me (I was inside my tent). We ended our time at the classic camp by giving the staff Frisbees. We departed from the staff with hugs all around, after the great care they provided to us.

Other lodging was also special. Serengeti Soroi is one of the most unique, breathtaking places I have been. It was just our family and one other couple at the lodge. The staff all knew our names. They celebrated my wife’s birthday with a cake, a Maasai necklace, a decorated basket, and best of all, two Swahili songs with dances.

Wildlife: We flew from Arusha to the West Serengeti. From the air we could see Maasai villages and our first sighting of animals—the great Wildebeest migration.

Have you ever seen Jurassic Park? Do you remember the scene where they first arrive and see the animals for the first time? We had our own Jurassic Park moment. As we were coming down for a landing in the West Serengeti to begin our safari, a vehicle drove the runway to get the animals off it. As we banked over the runway, below us were towering giraffes, herds of elephants, hundreds of cape buffalo and many other species.

After meeting our guide, Ellson, we loaded up. Within fifteen minutes, we were setting below four treed lioness.

That first day of Safari, we saw four of the “Big Five”—missing out only on the rhino. But just a few days later, we found a great rhino in the Serengeti.

We were able to take incredible close-up photos of all animals. Ellson was great at working hard to get us to the animals, but not endangering us or unduly disturbing the animals. We actually drove into the migration herd of wildebeest and zebras on three different occasions—setting in our vehicle and “becoming” part of the migration.

Our wildlife experiences were many, including a life and death drama with a herd of cape buffalo with a new born calf, a pack of hyenas and three lions—an event that went on for over 1.5 hours—with the buffalo on one side of our vehicle, the lions on the other side, and the hyenas all around us!!

We experienced a cheetah so close we could smell him as he passed by us.

We had front row seats observing the mating rituals several species, including the lion, buffalo, hyenas and baboons. The elephants showed us how dominate and powerful they can be.

The lions were incredible and the word Kopjes (where we would search for the lions and other wildlife) will forever be in our vocabulary. It is hard to imagine the size and strength of the cape buffalo, until you see them up close.

ADS experience: none of us have ever been treated like we were with ADS. From disembarking from the plane at Kilimanjaro Airport, an ADS person was with us the whole way. Everything was taken care of; we were always informed of what was going on and what to do if there was a problem. Everything was included in the trip, so there was no “up-selling”, and thus no pressures. Frankly, we were treated like royalty at every turn, with warmth, friendship and accommodation. ADS COULD NOT HAVE BEEN BETTER!

Our guide, Ellson, was the best we could have hoped for. Only once did he brag, and that was about ADS. He told me that we can do anything, go anywhere, with ADS; that ADS allows him to do anything and everything for his guests. We certainly didn’t see that occurring with other tour groups we saw, where they had to stay on ridged schedules and hit only the main spots.

Ellson did a great job of keeping us away from other tour groups. Many times we were the only people in the area. We could look for miles and miles, and see no other human, but only great herds of animals and the breathtaking savannah. He really helped us to truly experience the Serengeti as it has been for thousands of years.

Along the way, Ellson shared his broad knowledge of the animals, the Serengeti, the culture of the tribal peoples, and his country, Tanzania, that he so dearly loves. We had wonderful discussions with him, both driving, at our various stops and sometimes in the evening. Yet he was very respectful of our “family time”.

Each morning we met Ellson he would have the vehicles completely cleaned of not only the dirt and mud, but the trash we would accumulate during the day. Our binoculars were cleaned, in their cases and sitting on each of our seats. Our lunches were packed and he had a cooler of fresh water, soft drinks and candy bars (as well as a secret stash of cookies). His smile was infusing, and he inquired of each of us how we felt, and if there was anything he could do to help us.

At the end of the trip, there were tears as we said goodbye to Ellson. He is a wonderful man, who loves his job and is a great believer in the ADS way of first class service.

ADS, Ellson, the Serengeti and the people of Tanzania carved a new place in the hearts of my family. Dawn, thanks so much for guiding us.

The Clinkscales family.
Hays, Kansas
May 2012

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