When I was a little girl, visiting zoos to see the animals, I always dreamed of, someday, being able to go “somewhere” and see them free and out of cages. In September 2011 I began to plan my dream trip. After spending twenty plus years in the travel industry I started by reaching out to my contacts; from travel agents, travel professional to tour operators asking for their recommendations. I met with people in our community who have been on safaris (some more than once) and, of course, doing research on the internet. Did I mention that I’ve been accused of being anal?! I requested and received so much information that our mail person was begging me to stop!!
I started reading the information and weeding out many tour operators whose idea of a small group was anything below twenty people. Then I read more and looked at photos of six people (or more) in the vehicles and realized that I wanted more flexibility! I didn’t want to have to worry about getting the top of someone’s head or their ear in one of my photos! Or, not being able to see what was on the other side of the vehicle…or even not having the freedom to stay as long as I wanted to stay to watch a particular animal. So, I kept looking.
I noticed the quote on the Africa Dream Safaris information packet; “Life is not measured by the amount of breaths we take but by the moments that take our breath away” and I thought to myself, so true. I included their information in a smaller pile of tour operators that did the true “small group” safaris. From there I started doing more research, emailing each of the tour operators, checking with the Tanzania Tourist Board, the Better Business Bureau, Trip Advisors, etc. (Told you I was anal!)
Based on everything, including the quick, detailed and informative responses from Sharon (Lyon) I choose African Dream Safari and from there on life was easy!! Sharon, who I now refer to as “safari planner extraordinaire” took care of everything! I gave her my dates (another plus with ADS, they plan the safari around your travel dates!!) and told her I wanted to see animals, animals, animals. That was priority one and secondary, sunsets! I trusted her to pick the accommodations (after all she’s been on safari sixty times versus my zero – so who would know better?!) I told her I wanted to see and do everything and she got it all into our itinerary.
By July of 2012 the reservations were made and all I had to do was wait until September of 2013 for my dream to come true!! From my first contact with ADS until this September any question I emailed Sharon was answered so promptly (regardless of time of day or day of the week) that I asked her if she ever took time off!
When I started getting the newsletters I was so excited and in awe of all the beautiful photos and reading about everyone’s experiences I knew I had made the right choice. As the time got closer I told Sharon that when they assigned a guide to us to make sure they knew that, if our bodies could handle it, that we wanted to be up and on safari first thing every morning and would stay out as long as we could, so to make sure we got a guide who was ok with that.
We were so fortunate to have Ally as our guide. Within a few days we nicknamed him “Ally the AWESOME” or “Awesome” for short. Why you ask? Well, on our first day we saw the big five (including a lion chasing a leopard up into a tree)!! The second day we saw four of the big five. We would comment that we’d like to see a leopard in a tree with a kill. Well, sure enough Ally would find us one. Then me, being anal again, would say on a later day I’d like to see one closer, and he’d find another! We’d ask to see a giraffe with a baby, and literally five minutes later, there one would be. This happened over and over, at about day four or five I challenged him to find me one of two animals….a polar bear or a penguin, after all he’d found everything else so far I had to make it tough, if I’d have picked anything native, he’d have found it!! How he can see the animals at a distance while driving is remarkable! Add to that the knowledge he has about the animals, the ecology and the country – he made our trip awesome.
Our accommodations were each unique and special in their own way. The staff, at every location, welcomed us and was truly concerned about our comfort, making sure we felt welcomed and were taken care of. And the food, way too much to eat, even in our picnic boxes!!
To anyone who’s looking for a private safari, a once in a lifetime experience (which after having done it you’ll want to make it more than once in a lifetime) make your life easy, pick up the phone or send an email to Sharon and sit back, and let your dream come true!
Hallie and Walter P.
Port Charlotte, Florida
Safari Dates: September 15 to September 25, 2013