We Left Our Hearts In Africa
The trip and experience of a lifetime is how we have been describing our recent safari in gorgeous Tanzania with Africa Dream Safaris. Each day was a new adventure with Anglebert our driver/ guide. Not only was he extremely knowledgeable about the animals and birds, the history and culture of Tanzania, but he was also skilled at reading animal behavior and predicting what they might do next, affording us opportunity for wonderful viewing and photography.
Our safari with ADS started on Nov. 1, 2012 in the Northern Serengeti after a short flight from Arusha. Even from the air we could we could see herds of zebra, wildebeest, elephants, and Cape buffalo. Within hours of meeting Angelbert at the Kogatende airstrip we were fortunate to see a herd of wildebeest crossing the Mara River as a lioness waited in the thickets on the other side. We found her later in a thicket with one of her kills.
Our first two nights stay were at Buffalo Springs tented camp where we received a warm welcome. The staff made us feel at home and protected, and we loved waking up each morning to a “ good morning” with coffee and hot chocolate being brought to our tent before we left for an early morning game drive. The “tents” here were very deluxe. Ours had a leather loveseat and chair, a king size, beautifully furnished bed, and a tiled bathroom complete with all the amenities.
The next morning we went to a Masai Boma where we were given a guided tour of the Boma and were instructed in Masai culture. Our time there ended with the men and women dancing and singing for us. That evening we took a night game drive starting in the late afternoon.
The wildlife was particularly abundant here. We saw a herd of 24 giraffe, a pride of 22 lions, Thompson gazelle, Topi, Eland, Reedbuck, Water Buck, Elephant, Mongoose, Baboon, Vervet monkey and a large herd of Cape buffalo, which thankfully were on the other side of a narrow deep ravine, as they looked ready to charge our vehicle. We also saw our first Serval Cat, and a pack of five Wild Dogs.
We chose to take a walking safari at Buffalo Springs too. It was a little unnerving walking in places where we had seen wild game even though we had two Masai warriors with us in addition to our guide Moses. He was very knowledgeable in the animals, plants and birds we came across. We even got to watch a pair of Dung Beetles rolling their dung ball and then burying it. While game driving here we came upon two poachers late in the afternoon who had killed an eland. Angelbert reported it to the park rangers, who came promptly to check it out.
November 4 we game drove in the Loliondo and Lobo Valley area. One of our first sightings of the morning was a leopard who walked out from under a small bridge we were crossing. Later that morning we saw Cheetah, Ostrich, and Bat Eared Fox. We visited the Retima Hippo Pool, and though we had seen hippos in the rivers we had been near, we had never imagined or seen such a huge number of Hippos in one place. It was fascinating to watch them and the area lent itself to great photo opportunities. Later as we ate our boxed lunches Angelbert introduced us to Tangeweezi, a soft drink that tasted like a combination of Mountain Dew and Ginger ale. We really enjoyed it.
Our next two nights we stayed at Seronera Sametu tented camp. Jonas, one of the staff, greeted us each time we arrived at camp with hot moist towels, fresh mango juice, and his beautiful smile. Once again our tent accommodations were amazing and comfortable. Had it not been for mosquito netting around our bed and the sounds of lions, and hyena in the night, we would have thought we were in a resort hotel somewhere.
The next morning we ate our breakfast in the Land Rover as we watched a mother cheetah and her 5-month-old cubs eating their breakfast of gazelle. Throughout the day we toured many of the kopjes. We climbed one to see the Masai drawings on the rocks. Later at Lake Magati we saw innumerable flamingo. We later saw a large herd of wildebeest thundering across the plain and stopped a while to watch them. Angelbert positioned us so that they were running at us. For added entertainment, two young impala bucks fought each other nearby.
We had planned to go back to camp early today as we were both quite tired, but we were so glad we didn’t when we saw two male cheetahs that had spotted each other from afar. As they approached each other they recognized that they were brothers and nuzzled each other. Shortly after, Angelbert spotted 3 female lion stalking a herd of wildebeest. One charged too soon and the wildebeest got away. We followed one of the lionesses as she tiredly walked the road next to our Land Rover and stopped to drink heavily from a rain puddle.
Jonas’ lion stories at supper that night we pretty frightening and as he walked us to our tent that night we could hear lions!
November 6 we started our game drive today at 6:30am and headed for the Southern Serengeti. In early light we saw a cheetah take down a gazelle. Angelbert was so adept at observing and interpreting animal behavior. We had been watching a herd of zebra going down to a lake to drink. He noticed that the stallion of the herd suddenly held his head high. Sure enough, there were four lions hiding in a thicket near the water’s edge. It was fascinating to sit close by and see all this.
Later, after Angelbert spotted a leopard tortoise, he saw a male cheetah. Over the period of about an hour we were able to get within a few feet of this male cheetah. We watched him mark his territory, take a nap, walk to another set of low rock, climb up and look out over the plain. This rock was about the same height and size of our Land Rover. The cheetah hardly even looked at us as Angelbert backed our Land Rover up against the rock, had us pop our heads out the top and took our picture with the cheetah a mere 6-8 feet away. Just before we stopped for a picnic lunch we saw a pride of lions napping on and in the shade of Gol Kopjes. We were again able to get within several feet of the black maned male.
Our next two nights were at the Ngorongoro Serena Lodge. This lodge is amazing in its construction of local stone, and its location on the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater. Our room looked out over the crater. While completely different in the type of lodging we had experienced in the other camps, we really enjoyed our stay here. Our room was large and comfortable, and we could get internet access at the bar which allowed us to update our family and friends at home about our amazing experience so far, and that we had not made it on the menu of the local predators so far. (This had been a concern of our 90 years plus parents).
We enjoyed the nightly entertainment before dinner, which featured local acrobats, a music/ dance group and a performance by the local Masai in their brightly colored clothing and beaded jewelry. The sunsets and sunrises over the crater were breathtaking! We enjoyed our game drives in the crater each day. The crater floor is abundant in wildlife.
In addition to lion, elephant, Cape buffalo, warthog, wildebeest, zebra, impala, gazelle, baboon, flamingo, ostrich, and hyena, we saw black backed jackal. We saw the black rhino from a distance, and even though Angelbert worked hard all day to get a closer sighting, they were not cooperating that day. As in other parts of Tanzania we were able to see a large variety of beautiful birds. The end of our second day in the crater ended with a Cape buffalo kill by two lion.
Nov. 8 we headed out of the Ngorongoro Crater area and toward Taranguire National Park. Along the way were took a short tour of a local Masai market where goats and sheep as well as clothing, fruits and vegetables were being sold. We also stopped briefly at a local arts and crafts market so that we could purchase a few souvenirs. Later we stopped at FAME (Foundation for African Medicine and Education). We were very impressed with the work here by Dr. Frank and his wife. They are certainly providing much needed medical care for the local people in a beautiful new facility. We admire ADS for supporting this work.
After eating our boxed lunches at the entrance of Tarangire National Park we began our game drive. While the temperatures so far on our safari had been temperate, we noticed that it was warmer and more humid here. We also experienced Tsetse flies for the first time. This was the one experience of our whole trip that I could have done without. They seemed to find me especially tasty. While we still saw a large variety of animals here, the numbers were down due to the rains coming early this year and many animals having already left the park.
We did have many close encounters with elephants, which we thoroughly enjoyed. We also enjoyed seeing the enormous Baobab trees and the giant termite mounds. Our final two nights we stayed at Kikoti Tented Camp. These “tents” are up on stilts and also beautifully decorated. Ours faced the evening sunsets, which were absolutely gorgeous. We were able to take time here to sit around the campfire at night and share safari experiences with other travelers. The local Masai sang, danced and jumped for us and then had us join in. They also demonstrated how to build a fire by rubbing two sticks together. The night before we were to depart, the staff presented us with a “Good Bye” cake and sang Hakuna Matata to us.
November 10 found us regretting we had to leave beautiful Tanzania with its warm, friendly people, beautiful landscape and amazing animals. Anglebert drove us back to Arusha for our flight home, and after a few hours to shower, pack and rest at the Mount Meru Hotel, he brought us to the airport and even waited there to make sure we had to problems with our departure.
We highly recommend Angelbert as a driver/ guide. How he stays so patient and happy through what were usually 10-12 hour days, drove safely on difficult roads, and still managed to spot the animals was unbelievable! He was so kind and helpful, and has an amazing knowledge of the animals, birds, history, and culture of Tanzania.
We also highly recommend Sharon Lyons who was so helpful in planning our trip, making us aware of all necessary paperwork, and changes, and answering our questions. Africa Dream Safaris helped us plan the safari of our dreams and then made it happen. We are recommending you to all who will listen. We definitely left a part of our hearts in Africa and hope to return one day.
Doug and Jan Van Drie
Grand Rapids, Michigan
Safari Dates: November 1, 2012 to November 10, 2012