Many months of planning and anticipation finally came to fruition on February 20, 2013 when we arrived in Arusha to start our safari with Africa Dream Safaris. After being whisked through the VISA process, we were happy to have listened to planner extraordinaire Sharon and only brought carry-on luggage. Soon we were on our way out of the airport and on to Mt. Meru Hotel for an extra day of rest before embarking on our safari. I highly recommend this extra day, as we felt rested and refreshed on February 22 for our flight into the Serengeti.
We were met at the Seronera airstrip by our guide Reggie who briefed us on safety and promised that if we were patient we would see amazing things. This turned out to be very true and we ended up seeing much more than we ever imagined possible.
Barely out of site of the airstrip, we were already seeing gazelle, hartebeest, warthogs, and more. I started clicking away with my camera not realizing that there would be so much more (I needed to relax and be patient—but it was just so exciting!) I had read half a dozen books in preparation for the trip and had an idea that we’d see most of what I was interested in with the exception of perhaps the elusive leopard or rhinos. But leave it to Reggie to find 3 leopards on the very first day…and one that walked no more than 3 feet away from our cruiser!
In addition to the leopards on the first day we also saw a lion eating a giraffe, black-backed jackals, bat-eared foxes, hyraxes, dik dik, giraffes, and many birds. We ended our first day at Seronera Sametu Camp, greeted by Jonas who has the biggest smile in the Serengeti. It had started to rain, but we were ushered in with an umbrella, a cool washcloth, and delicious juice. We very much enjoyed Sametu Camp, where we were virtually the only guests for 3 nights. The food was excellent and we even got to watch the “TV” on our last night (code word for camp fire).
The highlight of day 2 may have been watching a newborn baboon with its family. Or was it coming across a pride of 9 lions napping under a tree? Or finding 2 more leopards? Day 3 included a trip to the Sametu Kopjes, where Reggie spotted 2 cheetah on the way—our first sighting of this curious cat. In another area Reggie pointed out some dangling wildebeest legs hanging from a tree (that was all that was left) and upon closer inspection he saw a baby wildebeest lodged in an adjacent tree. He knew we were in a leopard’s territory and with patience, we found it (if you’re keeping count, that’s 6 leopards by day 3).
We enjoyed a lovely sunrise and breakfast on our last day at Seronera Sametu Camp and began our journey toward Retima Hippo Pool. Slightly delayed by a flat tire, we encountered some other safari-goers who stopped to chat. We talked about what we had seen and quickly learned we’d seen WAY MORE than they had—which became a common sentiment from people we encountered traveling with other companies and guides. One of the advantages of ADS is that their drivers have a lot of experience and they aren’t competitive with one another—they share information and sightings via radio to give their guests the best.
We spent the next 3 nights at the lovely Lake Masek Tented Lodge. This may have been our favorite place, with its luxury accommodations, great food, friendly staff, and relaxing deck overlooking the lake (which goes perfectly with a Tusker beer). Setting out early each day (with Reggie, you’re always the first out) from Lake Masek we encountered so many sights.
We were usually out in the bush for 11 hours a day, taking our breakfast and lunch with us and soaking up everything we possibly could (Reggie pampered us with a table and chairs for lovely picnic-style meals.) We were fascinated by the cheetahs and following Reggie’s advice we patiently observed them which usually leads them to come close and enjoy the shade your truck or even chew on your mud flaps.
We learned so much from Reggie about the behavior of all the animals. My mom and I had a great time trying to “name that animal,” and I even tried to stump him with a sighting of something from the balcony of our room at the Serena Crater Lodge. After consulting several guidebooks, Reggie determined that the small, all black creature with the red beady eyes, and long, thin tail I saw was a Slender Mongoose.
Our last full day was spent in the magnificent Ngorongoro Crater. Reggie had informed us that for 15 years he had always been the first car at the Crater gate in the morning when it opened at 6am, and we were determined not to break his streak. This paid off as he sighted 2 Rhino within the first 15 minutes, as well as discovering a very large pride of sleeping lions. It was a special sight to watch the male and female lion sleeping entwined face-to-face. Later on we were able to get an even closer sighting of 2 more rhinos that crossed the road near our vehicle.
We ended our safari with a short trip through Lake Manyara. While this is a relatively small park, it was really great for watching baboon, vervet, and blue monkeys, as well as some really large birds. And you never know, out of nowhere you might see a herd of 6 elephant running across the road on a hurry somewhere!
We now know why this company receives so much praise. It truly did exceed all of our expectations. Thank you, Sharon, for your wonderfully planning and to Reggie for being a great guide and friend!
Rachel J. and Ann J.
Chicago, IL and Dayton, Oh
Safari Dates: February 20, 2013 to March 2, 2013