Posts From December 2012

The Prince of Stealth

While watching the endless and fascinating parade of wildlife in the Serengeti, I am always reminded of what extraordinary athletic skills the various animals possess. With many of you gearing up for your safari-of-a-lifetime with ADS, I thought I would share some “leopard facts” with you.

Together with the hyena, this beautiful feline is the most successful of all the carnivores and is certainly the mostly widely spread of all the cats throughout both Asia and Africa. The leopard’s success is due to its adaptability -it is able to live in environments varying from lowland rainforest to desert. In fact a leopard was even found frozen in an icecap on the summit of Kilimanjaro.

In areas where human encroachment has reduced their territory, they are able to live comfortably in an urban environment eating anything from insects to mice and more – many a family pet continues to disappear in Nairobi and seeing that they can easily take down a 300 pound young topi or wildebeest, they are not particularly fearful of man either. This is one reason why you don’t want to walk around unescorted at night when on safari.

Leopards can accelerate up to 37 miles per hour and here are the two points that I find particularly impressive: they can jump up to 20 feet from a standing position (I tried to see how I well I could compete and have decided not to share the results with anyone) and, a female leopard weighing around 128 pounds, can drag a 150 impala ram almost vertically up a tree.

Particularly good places to see leopard include Loliondo /the Buffalo Springs area, Lobo Valley, the Seronera River Valley and Tarangire National Park, so keep your camera ready.

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Dawn’s FAQ of the Week: I am bringing some cash to cover gratuities and souvenirs; do you have any advice about how to do this safely?

“I am bringing some cash to cover gratuities and souvenirs; do you have any advice about how to do this safely?”

Many guests express concern about travelling with cash, which is understandable. On a trip like this it is somewhat necessary, but luckily it is easy to keep your cash safe by following a few tips and by practicing common sense.

First of all, keep your money with you at all times. I recommend carrying your cash in a neck wallet or money belt, similar to those found at the following link:

http://shop.eaglecreek.com/money-belts-and-neck-wallets/l/312

Luckily most animals aren’t big on pick-pocketing, and since most of your time is going to be spent in wilderness areas without many people around, there is little occasion for concern there. But if you find yourself in a village, market, airport or other public place, simply practice common sense and don’t flaunt your cash or valuables.

While staying at the lodges or camps, don’t leave your cash or valuables laying out in plain sight in the middle of your room while you are out on safari. Most local Tanzanians who are employed at the various lodges and camps each value their  job in the tourist industry way too much to risk losing it for petty theft, but at the same time many of these good folks are far from wealthy and are often using the money they make at their jobs to support the needs of family members back home. It courteous to remember this and simply wise to not put the temptation out there for them. Many lodges or camps have security safes, but better yet just keep your money and valuables with you at all times.

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A few other frequently asked questions include:

“Why aren’t tips included in the price of the safari?”

Tipping may seem like an old fashioned tradition to some, but like other service oriented businesses (restaurants, etc.) it remains a cornerstone of the safari industry. Paying out tips ahead of time, even though it may be more convenient for guests who don’t want to travel with cash, really robs tipping of its original purpose.

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“Can we use a credit card to make purchases while we are in Tanzania on safari?  Are wine, beverages and laundry service included in the cost of my safari, and if not how much should I expect to pay?”

We encourage people to try and avoid using credit cards for small purchases, even at the lodges. It’s not a matter of the shop or lodge’s reputation, it’s a matter of computer security in general in Africa. (Just an aside, many of the lodges and camps ‘in the bush’ are unable to take credit cards anyway).   For more information on credit card use, as well as the cost of beverages and laundry service, please see the following link to my recent post on this very subject right here!

http://blog.africadreamsafaris.com/?p=9921

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Getting Ready For Our Holiday Safari!

A special thanks to Teddi Edington for sharing this excellent picture showing Teddi and her family getting ready to embark on their safari over the holidays. What a great present for the family!

Here at ADS we are gearing up for one of the busiest times of the year with over 20 groups arriving in the next 2 weeks. Luckily the weather, wildebeest migration and the game viewing in general are cooperating. Massive herds of wildebeest have inundated the Moru Kopjes area of the Central Serengeti and appear poised to strike south to the plains as soon we receive a bit more rain. The Seronera Valley is home to the biggest herds of zebra at the moment while the Gol Kopjes complex in the East Serengeti has attracted the migratory gazelle herds. Our guides report that the big cat viewing is superb with lots of big lion prides with cubs especially out on the long grass plains north of Naabi Hill. Cheetah viewing is excellent in the East Serengeti from Sametu to Gol Kopjes while leopard viewing remains good immediately around Seronera.

We look forward to welcoming everyone to Tanzania here over the next couple days. Happy Holidays to all!

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Dawn’s FAQ of the Week: Can we use a credit card to make purchases while we are in Tanzania on safari?

 

“Can we use a credit card to make purchases while we are in Tanzania on safari?”

Many people are used to using credit cards in their day to day lives for the sake of convenience, so it’s understandable that many people want to continue using their credit cards while in Africa.

Credit cards can be a useful tool, and personally I do always travel with one for emergencies and other special circumstances.  However, we encourage guests to try and avoid using credit cards for small purchases while on safari, even at the lodges and recommended shops. It’s not a matter of the shop or lodge’s reputation, it’s a matter of computer security in general in Africa.  (Just an aside, many of the lodges and camps ‘in the bush’ are unable to take credit cards anyway).

The reason why we are giving this advice is because incidents have happened in the past where guests’ credit card numbers were being used for other purchases in Africa after they got home. That being said, the incidents have been few and far between, just a handful of guests had a problem out of literally hundreds that had no problem. But it’s good to be aware, at the very least. If you end up using your credit card, just keep an eye on your statement when you get home.

If you purchase a more expensive souvenir such as tanzanite, or a life-size giraffe wood carving from the Cultural Heritage shop for several thousand dollars, well, in this case you might need to use your credit card.  The message here is to try to use discretion.   It’s a good idea to travel with enough cash to cover gratuities, small souvenirs, drinks and laundry service as applicable (regular US currency is fine).  Some lodges and camps do provide complimentary beverages and laundry service in their rates, while others charge a nominal fee for these items.   You can find a list of such inclusions and exclusions here:

http://www.africadreamsafaris.com/pdf/ADS_LaundryBeverageList.pdf

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Another couple of “frequently asked questions” include:

“Why isn’t wine and other  beverages included in the price for all lodges?  How much should I expect to pay?”

All the lodges and camps are individually owned and operated, and we have little control over whether or not beverages are included in their rates.  Nobody likes hidden costs so we try hard to make it very clear upfront exactly what is included and excluded in each safari itinerary (see last page of your written safari itinerary, or simply check the list at the link mentioned above).  Wine can typically be purchased from the various lodge restaurants or bar by the glass or by the bottle.  Wine prices span a considerable range; premium wines are usually available as well as less expensive varieties and house wine.  I recall purchasing wine myself for around $7-$12 USD per glass (can’t remember exactly what kind).  It seems most of the South African wines offered run between $30 – $60 USD per bottle.  Other types of alcoholic beverages are available for purchase, including premium liqueurs, and you can basically expect to pay approximately the same as what you’d pay for the same type/brand at a typical bar or restaurant here in the US.  Bottled water and soft drinks ordered from the bar are typically just a few dollars each.

 

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“How much can I expect to pay for laundry service?”

Laundry service is available at almost all the lodges and camps.  If laundry service isn’t already included in the lodge rates (per the sane list at the link mentioned above), you can expect the costs to run typically around $2-$3 per item.  An example of one “item” would be one jacket, or one pair of pants, or one pair of socks, etc.  I recommend giving your laundry to the lodge as early as possible during your stay.  Since most of the laundry here is done by hand and air dried in the sun, you want to give them a fair shot at getting your items cleaned and dried prior to your departure from that lodge.

 

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A Note from Susan Gustafson, Co-Founder/Co-Director, FAME Medical

There is nothing more heart warming than hearing the pitter patter and lively chatter of a toddler in the hospital, having fully recovered from a serious illness. It’s simply music to the ears. And that’s what Dr. Frank and I heard upon arriving at FAME Medical on Tuesday morning. Little Gabriel was scurrying around the ward, making the nurses and his tired mother smile. Diagnosed with an upper respiratory infection and a severe bacterial gastroenteritis the day of his admission, he was now on the road to a full recovery. As the year comes to an end, we would like to again thank all our ADS supporters for your ongoing interest and support. Your visits while in Tanzania, your thoughtful questions, your encouragement, and your generosity of spirit mean more than you can know.

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Africa Dream Safaris is proud to be a major sponsor of FAME and Dr. Frank Artress since 2008 and was honored with the Tanzanian Humanitarian Award specifically because of our work with FAME. Our ongoing monthly donations help FAME fund their mobile medical clinic bringing medical care to children living in remote areas. Many medical conditions can be treated correctly with proper healthcare including respiratory infections, waterborne diseases and diabetes. We suspect many children with juvenile diabetes simply die in rural Tanzania due to limited access and resources.

You may be asking yourself “How can I help?” The good news is that it doesn’t take much to make a real positive impact. Please consider a $50 donation to help Dr. Frank and Susan meet operational expenses for their Mobile Medical Service, purchasing laboratory equipment to provide more comprehensive diagnostic services, and completing the next phase of the medical project which involves expanding the existing Outpatient Clinic into a small hospital. The facility will include 12 inpatient beds and a major and minor Operating Room.

Africa Dream Safaris will match dollar for dollar any $50 donation thus turning your contribution into $100, which has real significant purchasing power in Tanzania. Please click here to contribute to FAME and to learn more about the organization. Make sure to enter ‘Africa Dream Safaris’ in the designation field to ensure that your $50 donation is matched correctly.

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Serengeti Cheetah Report – December 2012

The latest news from the safari capital of Africa has just been released. Here is a link to the December 2012 Serengeti Cheetah Report prepared exclusively for Africa Dream Safaris by Helen, the on-site researcher for the Serengeti Cheetah Project. You won’t find this information anywhere else. Africa Dream Safaris helps fund the Serengeti Cheetah Project’s ongoing conservation efforts. In turn, periodic reports are prepared exclusively for Africa Dream Safaris by the on-site researchers for the Serengeti Cheetah Project.

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Dawn’s FAQ of the Week: Are there any opportunities to purchase souvenirs? How much do they cost?

There are many wonderful places to buy souvenirs. You’ll have some opportunities along the way during your safari, such as local crafts and jewelry from the Maasai Village or the various lodge gift shops that often contain some nice hand selected local items. You’ll see some road side shops along the main road as you are driving from The Ngorongoro Crater to Arusha, near the town of Karatu; just ask your guide to help you find a reputable shop. But by far the most popular places to buy local crafts (woodcarvings, masks, artifacts, jewelry, etc.) is at the Kilima Tembo Shop in Karatu or the Cultural Heritage Center in Arusha.

Cultural Heritage is the largest of the two shops, and since it’s located in Arusha it makes a great “final” stop over place to pick up those last minute souvenirs before you depart for home, so that’s the one shop I’ll address in a bit more detail here.  The prices at Cultural Heritage are generally reasonable; probably not as cheap as the items you could find if you spent the day stopping at roadside shops, but the selection is out of this world. It makes a great ‘one stop shop’ place to purchase authentic souvenirs and has a HUGE selection! Sometimes they have local artists doing demonstrations too. You’ll have the opportunity to stop by Cultural Heritage Center on your last day but since you’ll have a few different activities competing for your attention that day, if you want to be sure and get some shopping in on your last day, please let your guide know early in the day that stopping here to get some shopping in is a priority for you!

The costs of souvenirs span a considerable range, you can buy a nice Maasai bracelet for $8-$10, or you may spend $20 or more for a more elaborate one. You can buy small and simple woodcarvings for a few dollars each, or you can spend hundreds of dollars on more elaborate woodcarvings made of ebony wood (a very hard and beautiful indigenous type of wood that is difficult to splinter or break). Usually the more detail, time and skill involved, the higher the price tag. Then of course there is Tanzanite, a very beautiful gemstone that can only be found in Tanzania; the cost is a function of size, color and clarity, and prices can range from hundreds of dollars to thousands of dollars.

Don’t be afraid to negotiate as it’s often expected, and don’t be afraid to shop around a bit before making a final decision.  You may notice a wide variance in pricing from one shop compared to another for what seems like very similar items, so keep that in mind and try to take it in stride if you happen to see an item advertised for a bit less money than what you paid for it at a previous shop; it’s an inherent risk you run every time you buy something locally made like a woodcarving, basket or beaded Maasai jewelry.  Here at ADS we have no control over the advertised prices at the various shops, but we do strive to take you to reputable places with good selections.  If shopping is your goal, hopefully you will end up with a special souvenir to help you remember a very special trip!

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