Posts From September 2014

Jurassic Park With The Big 5…Doesn’t Get Any Better Than That!

Asante sana to ADS and especially Dawn for tailoring our safari July 7 to July 19. Dawn set us up at camps and tented lodges rather than the larger lodges because of our history of backpacking and bareboat chartering. We were very pleased and highly recommend our accommodations at Serengeti Bushtops Camp, Migration Tented Lodge, Seronera Sametu Camp, and Lions Paw Camp at Ngorongoro Crater. They all truly exceeded our expectations.

The crater was magical…early morning drive with clouds pouring over the rim…a Jurassic Park with the “big 5”…doesn’t get any better than that! Our last stop was at the Ngorongoro Manor Lodge, a stunning setting on a coffee plantation. We would suggest staying there extra nights if time allows. The staff at each location was very attentive and personable and our guide Petro Meena was not only knowledgeable but just a blast in making it all happen. He even loaned his Nikon to one of our party after a malfunction on the first game drive.

To start we spent a few extra days in Amsterdam to acclimate to the time change which we all found very helpful. Then after a night in Arusha at the Mount Meru Resort we were off to the Mara River Airstrip where we joined our guide Petro. Within 15 minutes we were surrounded by giraffe, elephant, hippo, gazelle, and witnessed two Mara River crossings by zebra and wildebeest…100+ pic’s in the first hour and over 2000 during the next 10 days plus multiple videos and GoPro shots using a 3’ extender from ground level while on drive.

I used the little pocket Canon Power Shot and the Wi-Fi ready Canon 70D with the 100-400mm white lens which gave me the option to back up RAW photos to my email account daily…very convenient. After all of the hype about big cameras and cumbersome zoom lenses do not forget to use your iPhone for panorama shots. Some of my best were with the phone.

We are already thinking about our next ADS trip at a different time of year to see the calving in the green season and experience other locations on the beautiful Serengeti.

Matakwa bora and asante sana to ADS, Dawn and Petro. You are the greatest!

A.L. and Terri B., Daron and Debra S., Judie and Doug M.
Tulsa, Oklahoma
Safari Dates: July 7, 2014 to July 19, 2014

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Africa Dreams Luxury Safari September 2014

With three other couples, we traveled to Africa to see the Serengeti and see what Africa had to offer. With Africa Dreams Safari (ADS), we found the best tour company Africa had to offer! This was our first trip to Africa and our personal trip began a little earlier than the other couples because we went to see the Mountain Gorillas near Kigali, Rwanda. I mention this because the recommendation that ADS provided as to how we would meet up with the other couples in the middle of the Serengeti was outstanding and showed the depth of knowledge ADS has about Africa. The Coastal Air connections ADS suggested went exactly as planned–it was definitely a unique experience with the pilot meeting us outside security, walking us through security and immigration to the plane, and then helping us stash our baggage before “she” flew us on to our destination!

Our ADS adventure began at Kogatende (Mara River), a small dirt airstrip where we were met by our ADS guides, Anglebert and Elson. It did not take long for us to realize what superb guides they were! Our adventure began, after a picnic lunch and a patient wait, with literally thousands of Wildebeests plunging into the river for the Great Migration! To actually see the crossing from just a few meters away and to hear the sounds of these magnificent animals as they swam for their lives was phenomenal.

We divided our group between two vehicles. We rearranged ourselves each day so we traveled with each member of our group and all had the advantage of both guides. One of the days, we split with the women in one vehicle and men in the other! The guides drew straws to see who got who! Our guides were knowledgeable and made every day fun and educational.

Anglebert and Elson taught us how to look for animals hidden in the bush. And they found so many we might have overlooked! They taught us to wait patiently, quietly, so that we could observe behaviors that we never expected to see. You don’t really know how much the guides tell you is to make you happy and how much is fact, but they seemed to enjoy our group. I believe we were very low maintenance and simply followed their suggestions they said benefited not only us but them–even when they advised us that we should get up very early in the morning to begin our day’s trek—it really makes sense because of the animals sleeping to avoid the mid-day heat.

We saw Elephants grazing and knocking down the Acacia trees, honeymooning Lions, several Hippo pools, the elusive Dik-Dik and Klipspringer, Zebras, Hyenas, Warthogs, Thomson and Grant’s Gazelles, Giraffes, Leopards and Cheetahs with their kills, Waterbucks, Elands, Topis, a Rhino with her baby, and so much more! And the birds—what can you say! Everything went amazingly to plan and we got to experience everything we were supposed to and more. The guides said that we were very fortunate to see the Rhino and her baby and a Caracal cat as these are a rarity. To say we saw so much more than we ever expected is no exaggeration and we quickly ran out of superlatives to describe our adventures.

Additionally, our accommodations, ranging from exclusive and luxurious at Serengeti Bushtops Camp and Ngorongoro Manor Lodge to more rustic at Seronera Sametu and Ngorongoro Lions’s Paw Tented Camp were wonderful and had excellent staff! At each, we were met by management with small towels to wipe off the grime of the day, quickly followed by a small pick-me-up to stave off our thirst until we could get to the bar which had a nice variety of beverages. Tent camping with real beds, hot showers (including the ones where hot water was delivered to a gravity shower), absolutely excellent! This coupled with the opportunity to watch a sunrise or a sunset followed by a display of stars unaffected by city lights is an experience not to be missed.

The recommended side trip off the Serengeti to Buffalo Springs Luxury Camp allowed a several hour Night Game drive so we could experience dusk becoming night and view the animals that came out at night–a lioness on a hunt, a Crested Porcupine, and although we had seen leopards earlier in the trip, we got to watch one tearing into its recently killed prey while poised in the top of a tree. The next day featured a visit to a Masai village and was extremely interesting in terms of the insight provided into the life and culture of this African group.

The only mildly negative thing we could say concerned the Buffalo Springs facility which really didn’t quite match up to the rest of them in two respects. I fully understand why (the night ride) we wanted to be out of the park and that ride was excellent. The initial problem was solely one of our perceptions of what management should be like. It had nothing to do with the facility or the non-management staff. The person we later found was the manager seemed totally disengaged and seemed to care less whether we were there or no. We initially thought he was a boyfriend or another visitor but later found out that he was the manager. The rest of the staff was great. The night we arrived it was quite windy and unfortunately because of the location of the tents on the mountainside, the tents were quite noisy which could not be helped, but bothered some couples. Apparently there was also an issue with regard to getting water for the night ride but we were not part of that so cannot speak to it.

All in all it was an absolutely fantastic trip. I do not know how we could have improved what we did and saw and we greatly appreciate the knowledge and experience provided by ADS that allowed this adventure to happen. Kudos to ADS—we recommend them highly.

Jerry and Katherine W.
West Monroe, Louisiana
Safari Dates: August 15, 2014 to August 24, 2014

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I’ve Never Been So Impressed With A Company Before.

Our safari couldn’t get any better than this! That’s what we declared at the end of each day only to be delightedly proven wrong. For 12 days, our schedule was filled, either viewing or participating in one amazing adventure after another. We welcomed our beds each night to wake up before dawn with anticipation of what a new day would bring. And, we were never disappointed.

Like many before us that have embarked on a journey to Tanzania, ours started nearly a year-and-a-half ago by sorting through the information provided online from the many safari companies. We were quickly able to cull the list to a select few that seemed to offer what we were looking for in terms of service and lodgings. After communicating through emails and phone conversations with all of these remaining companies on our list, it was clear that African Dream Safaris was the right fit for our needs. It was the responsiveness of Dawn Anderson that sealed the deal, who was nothing less than spectacular with her knowledgeable guidance and timeliness in thoroughly answering all questions, no matter how mundane the subject.

Our first stop was in the Northern Serengeti. After landing, our two families (four adults and three children ages 10, 11, and 13) met our guides Ellson and Russell. Within a few feet from the Kogatende Airstrip, we began our journey, one of seemingly nonstop viewing of animals. Before stopping for our first box lunch, we had already seen impala,Thompson’s gazelle, zebra, hyena, warthog, nile crocodile, hippo, vultures attending to a wildebeest carcass and an abbreviated wildebeest crossing of the Mara River. By the end of the day, we were able to mark down 26 animal species along with a number of different birds. We also gained incredible respect for Ellson and Russell and their depth of knowledge of everything Serengeti.

While in the central Serengeti, we took a balloon excursion recommended by Dawn Anderson. We awoke at 4:15 in the morning with the hopes that the ride would be worth the early rising. And it was. We felt privileged to be able to enjoy a vantage point that most don’t get the chance to see. It was amazing to see the tops of the acacia where vultures were nesting, hippos actually running, the balloon basket scattering a herd of Thompson’s gazelles and Cape buffalo close and personal. We touched down near Moru Kopjes where we enjoyed a champagne toast and an English breakfast under the canopy of a towering acacia tree.

I could not write this without mentioning our visit with the Hadza tribe. We woke up early to hunt down the Hadzabe, a nomadic hunter-gatherer tribe we understood was living in the Lake Eyasi region, where it is estimated that just 1000-1500 exist. On this morning we visited a group numbering 20-25, bringing them food saved from our collective lunch boxes, nuts and candies. We didn’t know what to expect, but had hoped to see how they hunt and understand their way of living, and maybe find some mutual commonality. Boy, did we get that and more!…It sure wasn’t Disney.

I have to admit I was a little intimated and initially didn’t know whether we were welcome there or not. We learned their greeting and shook their hand. The size and strength of their hands left me hoping even more that they were a friendly bunch. Not to be worried. After a little time around the fire making some arrows, the younger warriors got up and went out to hunt food. They walked fast and we ambled as gracefully as a bunch of city people do amongst the brambles and acacia bushes set out to grab hair and any clothing items that come near enough for them to ensnare.

They found their kill, then proceeded to begin the process of making fire. It was then that their mood lightened as they sat there and cooked their parrots and squirrels over the fire. They offered out to our group with a couple of the more adventurous eaters who sampled. They have made a conscious choice to stay true to customs of their tribe for reasons that only they can understand. It is a hard life that they live and I can’t fathom how they are able to endure the day-to-day, however, for now they continue to do so.

There are so many highlights and I can’t really go into too much detail with ever having the hopes of finishing this letter, so I will simply list some of them here below:

– A lioness moving her 4-5 day old cubs from one hiding spot to another and having to cross the road immediately in front of our truck.

– ‘Cat day’, where we saw a leopard walking across the plains to cross the road directly in front of our car and comfortably sit down on the road next to us, a cheetah kill a Thompson’s gazelle, two serval and plenty of lions.

– Watching a lion and lioness pair prepare to attack an injured wildebeest. Seeing the amusing human-like dynamics play out between the lion and the lioness as he realizes that the lioness is not doing her job of hunting and he is left to unsuccessfully make the attempt.

– Traveling across the open plains then stopping to watch a large herd of elephants and the enjoying baby elephants playing like children.

– After a long journey to Ngorongoro crater, spotting a rhinoceros. Then, waking up early to be the first in the park (staying a Lion’s Paw is the best way to arrive early) and finding another rhinoceros, then watching and appreciating the expertise of Ellson to anticipate the movements of this allusive creature in order to gain the best view.

– Waking up in the morning to the sound of lions calling right outside the tent.

– Russell spotting an impala on the ground in the brush giving birth. A concerned giraffe comes over to help, scaring the impala away and causing her to run away mid-birth.

– That ‘aha’ moment when we understood the carrion animals and their much appreciated job as janitors of the Serengeti while watching a massive group of vultures feeding on a zebra that perished on the side of the road. I remember the immense patience of Russell while he patiently explained the hierarchy of the vultures and their specialized functions so that I can record it in my journal.

I couldn’t imagine a better trip (other than being able to witness a larger wildebeest river crossing) and the time spent in Tanzania will always be remembered as one of the best adventure vacations ever. There is a saying in Tanzania, which is “You come here for the animals, but you come back for the people.” This is the truest of true statements about Tanzania and also of ADS.

Our many thanks to Dawn Anderson who helped us get there; Michael, Kikoti and the other ground team in Arusha; to the men who could write the book on professionalism Russell and Ellson, our drivers and friends for a lifetime; and to Jonas at Seronera Sametu Camp and Edward at Lion’s Paw Camp, who kept us in hot water and fed us some of the most appropriate and delicious meals.

I’ve never been so impressed with a company that are intertwined so prevalently with our travel memories. It is also our first experience where the company continues to stay in contact with us after our return. Asante Sana ADS for a trip of a lifetime!

Peter, Allison and Zachary V.
Boca Raton, Florida
Safari Dates: July 29 – August 9, 2014

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We Were Fortunate Enough To See Four Crossings – The First Being A Herd Of Elephants!

We had no idea what “A Trip of a Lifetime” could mean until we went on our African Dream Safari! From the first moments we landed in Tanzania and met Faith and Tman, we knew that ADS was first class. Faith and Tman made us feel right at home, and provided us with so much information and direction that we never felt a moment of concern. When we mentioned that we hoped to see the local coffee plantation on our extra day in Arusha, Tman took the lead and arranged the tour and drove us around the city and to the plantation, letting us drink in the sights at a leisurely pace.

(To see my website I created for this trip, click here: www.freidesweb.com/Safari2014 )

In Farther North, we met Malaki, who would be our guide and our leader for the next 8 days as well as our great friend for life. Within minutes of departing the airstrip, we pulled up to a riverbank and were immediately viewing a tower of giraffes, a pod of hippos, and a herd of zebras (yes, Malaki was a great font of knowledge, giving us these and many other terms throughout our trip).

We were fortunate enough to see not one but FOUR crossings – the first being a herd of elephants! Even Malaki had not seen an elephant crossing, so we were all in awe of this event. The part of a safari that you just can’t explain to your friends is the emotional impact it has on you. After the sheer beauty of the animals and landscapes and the warm yet humble welcome at the Maasai village, you feel as though you are a different person.

The camps that our ADS Consultant Dawn chose for us were perfect! The staff was so warm and welcoming, providing us with our every wish during our stay. They truly are ambassadors, not only for Tanzania, but for ADS as well.

We are so glad that we chose to trust African Dream Safaris with our trip. The personal touch and genuine care we received from the first email to Dawn to these post-safari contacts have been truly wonderful.

Jim & Stuart F.
Miami, Florida
Safari Dates: September 1, 2014 to September 8, 2014

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We Would Highly Recommend ADS For An Unforgettable Experience.

An African Safari had been on my bucket list for some time. When I decided to seriously look in to a trip, the internet was the first place to search, since I did not personally know anyone who had been to Tanzania or the Serengeti. After pondering a dozen or so safari companies I narrowed it to three to contact. The most timely and informative response was from Africa Dream Safaris. After the second email and then a phone conversation with Dawn my decision was made to go with Africa Dream Safaris. They offered a private safari, and luxury accommodations, which I knew would make my wife very pleased. The price was not cheap, but was competitive.

Dawn was very helpful in all the planning steps, and there were not any unexpected bad surprises on the trip. Upon arrival in Arusha we were met by ADS representatives who provided all the assistance we needed to get to the Mount Meru Resort and settled in. Since we are of retirement age we made a good decision to stay an extra night to get acclimated to the new time zone before we embarked on the safari. ADS surprised us by providing a private dinner for our 44th wedding anniversary in the gazebo at the resort.

The safari, the guide, the accommodations, and the food were all delivered as promised, and in many cases exceeded our expectations. Our guide, Michael, was very knowledgeable about all the wildlife, their habits and their habitation. The Four Seasons in the Serengeti was simply exquisite in facilities and service. The other camps were marvelously accommodating in facilities and friendly service.

We would very highly recommend Africa Dream Safaris for an unforgettable experience of a lifetime. August 16-24, 2014 will always be remembered as an extraordinary time of our life. If we get an itch yet again for Africa we will certainly embark again with Africa Dream Safaris.

Dick and Diane T.
Palestine, Texas
Safari Dates: August 16, 2014 to August 24, 2014

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By The End Of The Trip Our Wonderful Guide Was Family.

As everyone says, “It was a trip of a lifetime”. We readily echo that sentiment. It was beyond our wildest dreams to see this many animals in this wonderful environment. Our traveling foursome enjoyed each and every moment.

Our wonderful ADS Guide by the name of Malaki made the trip even more special. We chose to include him in everything we did, and by the end of the trip – he was family! He had an amazing knowledge of the animals and an incredible instinct for finding them.

We loved our choice of tents and lodges and found each unique and special. The food, the sundowners and sunrises were exceptional. The hot showers and hot water bottles were a great treat at the end of the day. It is a trip we will always remember, and we made memories that will last forever. We are grateful to the staff at ADS for answering all of our questions ahead of time and making us feel 100% secure about everything at all times. We will not forget!

I really appreciate all you did for us and all of the silly questions we had. We truly felt secure the entire time. Everything and everyone was fabulous. 10’s on a scale of 1 to 10. The staff, the accommodations, the food, the game drives…all perfect!

All my best,

Gerald and Melinda J.
Weatherford, Texas
Safari Dates: September 1, 2014 to September 8, 2014

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ADS Created A Life Changing Trip For Us!

It is incredibly hard to put into words a trip that was planned over the course of a year and a half and encompassed 14 days in Tanzania. We had an idea of where we wanted to go, but simply looked at reviews for the best safari companies. We contacted several, including companies rated the best in the world and no one came close to the personal service Dawn offered our group. No question was too menial. Every response was under 12 hours from when we hit send. The comfort that afforded us was huge.

Two families (4 adults and 3 children ages 10, 11, and 13) were traveling to a continent that 6 of us had never been on before. We expected everything to be perfect. ADS delivered. From the touchdown in Arusha to the takeoff back home no detail was missed.

We expected the animals to be incredible and they were. Unimaginable! So close to so many beautiful animals and birds. Everyday out on safari we added new animals we hadn’t seen yet to our list. Animals were being added to our list that I had never even heard of.

The highlights: We had a leopard walk next to the car. He was too close to capture with my camera. We watched a cheetah stalk, attack, kill and eat and impala. We witnessed a cheetah miss his impala. The impala jumped over an acacia bush and the cheetah slammed full speed into the thorny bush. He limped away, bruised and hungry.

First day into the bush, our incredible guides Russel and Ellison found the right spot to see a Mara river crossing of Wildebeest and zebra. The lions! Multiple sightings, the last of which was of a mating pair. And I can not forget the all too cute bush baby.

We planned our trip for the animals, but the people of Tanzania created a life changing experience for us as a family. From our Tanzanian guides, to the hosts and employees at the camps, to the children we met along the roads and at the school, everyone was happy and kind. It gives you perspective about the important aspects of life.

We saw children, younger than ours, herding cattle along the roads with no food or water. We visited schools set up to improve the potential these children have. Yet, they have no water to drink and minimal food for a whole day of education. It seemed so unfair. Our son took it upon himself to start feeding the children. We would diligently stop when he felt there was a child who appeared hungry and give out granola bars and juice. Our daughter tried to trouble shoot how to get drinkable water to the area.

This is not something you can get from a book. You have to experience it. Despite the tremendous differences between “our world” and theirs, none of these children seemed unhappy. There was never a time we didn’t see smiling faces, waving to us just because we were passing.

I can not fail to mention our morning with the Hadzabe tribe. We were without a doubt in a National Geographic film. We had an opportunity to meet a tribe of fewer than 1000 people total and follow them on a hunt for their daily food. Running through acacia trees and bushes following 6 men and young boys with bows and arrows as they looked for their meal was slightly scary. We had a special guide to help communicate with them. They don’t speak English. They don’t even speak Swahili. It wasn’t scary as in being dangerous. It was just so incredibly real. This wasn’t a tourist attraction. This was their life and we were granted a glimpse into their day. Definitely a highlight of the vacation.

Lastly, and probably most importantly, was our guides. I diligently read the testimonials each week. The guides are always mentioned for their knowledge and respect for the land. Russell and Ellison blew us away. They were talking encyclopedias. If they didn’t know the answer, they found it for us. They felt like family by the end of our 12 days. The patience they showed with the 3 kids was incredible. Each child was so different, yet they had a great grip on how to keep them engaged and hungry to learn more.

There is no question in my mind, they completed our safari. I would absolutely recommend ADS for anyone traveling on safari, but if you are going with children, ADS is the way to go.

Thank you so much to Dawn, Russell, and Ellison.

Melissa, Brad, Della (age 11), and Joah (age10) L.
Boca Raton, Florida
Safari Dates: July 28, 2014 to August 9, 2014

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No More Going To The Zoo For Me!

This was one of our most memorable vacations ever. We would like to thank Dawn first for custom planning this wonderful safari for us. It was great dealing with her because she has basically first-hand experience of all the places that we eventually visited. The entire tour was perfectly organized and every place we stayed was very comfortable and unique with picturesque surroundings, pleasant staff and sumptuous food.

Obviously the highlight of the trip was seeing the animals, and we were not disappointed at all. We pretty much saw all the animals in the first 2 days, and the credit goes to our great guide/driver named Malaki who had this knack of ‘finding’ animals. Malaki was a gem – very pleasant and extremely knowledgeable and as a matter of fact, we started calling him “Professor”!

We could see all the BIG 5 – lion, buffalo, elephant, leopard and rhino! It wasn’t just seeing the animals, we had the opportunity to study their behavior and to see how beautifully they co-exist. It is so much fun seeing them so happy, healthy and playful in their OWN natural surroundings. No more going to the zoo for me!

Furthermore we were fortunate to witness the incredible and magnificent migration – truly a once in a lifetime experience! This is a vacation every one of us should take and I would highly recommend African Dream Safaris without any hesitation! Special thanks to Dawn who made this happen!

Go with ADS and you will be saying – “Hakuna Matata” throughout your trip!

Arvind and Rekha P.
Canfield, Ohio
Safari Dates: July 23, 2014 to July 31, 2014

PS. Here are our shots of the BIG 5 – lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and buffalo in respective order!

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Every Day Was Kila Kitu Sawa Sawa!

We have been back from our 15 days in Tanzania for just over a week now. Our daughter is off to grad school and in less than 2 weeks, our son heads off for his graduate program. The safari trip was a terrific time together and the source of many great shared memories we can all take with us as these new stages begin.

We were fortunate enough to see three river crossings, enumerable wildebeests and zebras, the ‘big-5’ supplemented by cheetahs, hyenas, giraffes, hippos, and many birds (our favorite was the lilac breasted roller pictured here).

In looking back on all the things we saw and did, the people and the baby animals stand out. A big thanks to Dawn for her help in planning the ultimate trip and to David for his expert driving, game spotting, bird identifying and for his friendship forged over our days together. He really made the trip special and every day was kila kitu sawa sawa (swahili for everything is perfect).

We also met so many other Tanzanians whose good humor and helpful way made the travel that much more enjoyable, including Faith and Simon in Arusha, Jonas at Sametu Camp, Edward at Lion’s Paw, and Raymond at Swala. Assante sana!

As for animal babies, some big stand-outs were elephants still learning to use their trunks and mimicking the actions of their older siblings. One of the youngest we saw resorted to dunking half of her face in the pool to get a drink the old-fashioned way (pictured below)!

At one of the kopjes we came upon 3 very young lion cubs without any baby sitter present. We could have watched for hours as they already started showing the ‘king of the beasts’ attitude while staring out at us from the rocks.

While we had hoped to see a black rhino in the Serengeti, the chance to see both mom and baby was really special. To get back to them required some expert 4-wheeling from David. We were rewarded with close-up views of these endangered animals which included curious youngster who walked around and watched while mom napped.

On our way toward Sametu Camp, we saw our first jackals. The pair seemed to be heading off to hunt as evening was approaching. Up the road a bit was a termite mount with 5 jackal puppies playing outside. As we approached they made for home, though their curiosity overcame fear as they watched us and then started playing as though we weren’t there. Big ears and wide eyes overwhelm little bodies at this age.

As we headed out from Tarangire for the drive back to Arusha, we saw our 7th and 8th cheetah, a mom and cub. They looked very regal laying across their rock vantage point ignoring us as they hung out.

On a final note about the babies, we were impressed by how young some of the Maasai boys are who are out watching over the family herds of cattle, sheep and/or goats. Some of them look to be about 5 or 6 as they follow in their father’s footsteps surrounded by the wild.

There are so many memories and animal anecdotes from the trip and too many to share here. Thanks again to Africa Dream Safaris and particularly to Dawn and David for making the plan and executing the plan out on safari.

Scott, Audri, Nicole and Jackson H.
Westerville, Ohio
Safari Dates: August 2, 2014 to August 14, 2014

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An Amazing African Adventure!

Three years ago, my brother-in-law went with his father on a safari with ADS. After seeing his pictures and hearing about their incredible experience with ADS, a Tanzania safari became the top item on my father’s bucket list. So in celebration of a milestone birthday for him this year, my father and I planned our own safari with ADS, could not have been happier with the experience!

Dawn Anderson was our safari consultant, and she did a wonderful job working through the details to customize a trip that was perfect for us. Our final itinerary was an eight-day safari starting in the northern Serengeti, with stops in the central Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater, Oldupai Gorge and Lake Manyara National Park. Throughout our journey, we had the pleasure of staying in lodges and camps, and loved the different experiences that both provided.

The luxurious accommodations provided by Lemala Kuria Hills and Migration Tented Lodge were a welcome reprieve after a dusty day in the bush; but the peacefulness and prime location for viewing animals provided by the tented camps at Lemala Mara River Camp, Seronera Sametu Camp, and Ngorongoro Lion’s Paw Camp could not be beat.

From hearing the hippos singing in the night at Migration Tented Lodge, to having a lion join us for breakfast at the Seronera Sametu Camp, each location provided a unique and unforgettable experience! The great locations of each camp were further supplemented by the very hospitable staff, which greeted us with huge smiles and accommodated every request to ensure a comfortable stay.

Each day on safari consisted of a game drive in a different part of the park, led by our knowledgeable and friendly driver-guide, Immanuel Kichao (Imma). Simply put, Imma was the reason we had such an incredible experience on our safari. Imma was not only more than capable of giving detailed answers to every question we asked, but he navigated the bumpy Serengeti roads like the professional that he is, ensuring that my father and I were comfortable throughout the trip.

His knowledge and experience in tracking animals translated into some breathtaking moments. Though there were far too many to list succinctly in a blog post, the highlights include watching a seemingly never-ending wildebeest stampede; lion cubs playing with each other and their mothers, then going to eat the buffalo killed for breakfast minutes later; close viewing of a leopard and a black rhino with her cub; two cheetah eating their gazelle kill; and loads of run-ins with zebras, giraffes, hippos and elephants.

While seeing the animals was certainly the highlight of the trip, I also enjoyed driving through the villages on the way back to Arusha, which included a stop at the Foundation for African Medicine and Education (FAME). FAME is a hospital in the village of Karatu that provides high quality, low cost medical care to the local villagers and members of the Masai tribe. It was both inspiring and humbling to see the tireless efforts of the staff and volunteers to increase access to quality medical care for those living outside of the large cities. I am really glad we took the time to visit FAME, and appreciate that ADS provides exposure to the local culture and community efforts.

We cannot thank Dawn, Imma and ADS enough for putting together such a memorable safari. We will be talking about this trip for years to come!

Asante sana!

Joseph and Lindsay V.
Montgomery, New Jersey
Travel dates: July 26-August 5, 2014

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Detailed Trip Report, Tips and Recommendations

We just returned from our fantastic trip to the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater. My wife and I, along with our 2 boys (18 and 16), had a truly wonderful trip and we are already missing the animals and landscape. I’ve been thinking: Is Swahili that difficult to learn and can I find a job there? Although we do a considerable amount of adventure photography (our last trip was underwater photography of whale sharks), I’ve never been out of the Western Hemisphere, so I was somewhat anxious about making the flight and personal connections in Tanzania. However, all of that anxiety was unnecessary as Africa Dream Safari organized this trip perfectly.

Before we go into details and give some suggestions, I should say that we wanted to do a lot of photography and Dawn suggested renting a good camera and lens. In addition to my reasonably good Nikon D90 with a 70-­‐210 F2.8 lens, I rented a D800 and an 80-­‐400 F 4.5-­‐5.6 lens (key decision), because we often had several people wanting to take pictures at the same time. The D800 has to capability of taking 36-­‐ megapixel images; thus, the images made by this camera are wonderful. Also, bring one wide-­‐angle lens for those scenic shots.

Because I was shooting fine JPEG and RAW images simultaneously, I used a lot of memory with each mage I took. I had 8 SD cards (ranging from 8 GB to 64 GB) and could fill them every day, so bringing a laptop computer is another important decision to download the images. Make sure you bring the cable that connects your camera to the computer so you can download the images. I forgot my cord, but fortunately my Mac has an SD card slot. Also, bring a copy of your camera’s users manual – I had to resort to it several times during the trip. Downloading the pdf to the computer is a nice way to save weight. Our driver-­‐ guide had 2 good beanbags in his LandRover, so don’t bring your own or go buy beans in the Arusha market (like I did).

We also brought a video camera and a drone to fly over the animals. (***Note: Subsequent to this safari, the Tanzanian government has now banned the use of drones***) The drone is capable of taking jpeg images and video. The drone enabled us to get a hot air balloon view anytime we wanted for less than the cost of a 1-­‐hour balloon ride for 3 people. Interestingly, we were not the only people using drones for photography. Our driver-­‐guide enthusiastically, but safely, encouraged the use of the drone. We have many spectacular aerial images of animals in their habitat. Although viewing the animals from the roadside is wonderful, the aerial images give an entirely new view of the animals in their environment.

International flights: We took Delta to Amsterdam and Delta (KLM) to the Kilimanjaro Airport in Tanzania. Delta was much less expensive than flying KLM, but used the same aircraft. All of the flights had excellent in-­‐seat entertainment. Our single checked bag made it without issue.

Kilimanjaro Airport reception: Faith (who is a wonderful person and very pregnant at the time) met us at the airport and got us through the visa line quickly. We were taken by van to the Mount Meru Resort – a 1-­‐hour drive. At the entrance, they check under the vans and cars with mirrors to make sure the place is safe. The hotel is nice, but since it is the Southern Hemisphere’s winter, the pool was just a little too cold four our taste. We took an extra day to recover from our 24-hour journey, so we just slept late at the hotel and then went for an Africa Dream Safari provided drive around Arusha. Arusha is a large city with significant poverty; it is amazing that Tanzania has been able to keep the Serengeti from being converted to farmland just like the American Plains were.

Getting to the Arusha Regional Airport to the Grumeti Airstrip: Faith met us at the hotel and helped us with the hotel checkout. She also arranged for us to leave a bag of clean clothes with the local Africa Dream Safari people.

Flight from Arusha Regional Airport to the Grumeti Airstrip (Western Serengeti): We flew with Regional Air on a Cessna Caravan C 208 B, which holds only 11 people. All of our checked bags were weighed as we were allotted some 30 pounds of luggage each. The carry-­‐on baggage was very small (basically your cameras). This plane does not have any overhead storage, obviously. The Arusha Airport landing strip is over 5000 feet long – plenty long for this type of aircraft. (Of note, Ethiopian Airlines landed a 767 on this landing strip in December of 2013. One more reason not to take Ethiopian Airlines.) The Cessna Caravan C 208 B is a twin-­‐engine turboprop aircraft with an excellent overall safety record.

Grumeti Airstrip: Hard packed landing strip on a flat area of the Western Serengeti. Again, no safety problems; however, one of our bags (the one with the drone) was accidentally loaded onto another aircraft. We got the bag later in the day. The landing was great as we could see wildebeests, warthogs and hippos all around the airport. We were met at the airstrip by our driver-‐guide, Inglebert.

Game drives: The drives start immediately upon arrival to the airstrip. Inglebert turns out to be a pleasant chap, terrific guide and excellent photographer. He is quite knowledgeable about the ecosystem, the animals and their habits. Having a knowledgeable Swahili-­‐speaking guide is key as they radio each other with the locations of the various animals. This guaranteed us a concentrated game viewing experience. It may have been luck, but we saw 3 rhinos, 3 leopards, a python, and over 50 lions on our 6-­‐day tour.

Speaking of lions, we saw lionesses in trees teaching cubs to climb, one group of seven lion cubs and another of 11 lion cubs. We also saw 2 lionesses make 3 wildebeest kills in less than 1-hour; apparently, they were “playing”. But we came for the migration and we saw hundreds of thousands of wildebeests and additional large groups of zebras, buffalos, impalas, and gazelles.

Key tip to the photographers – relax, you will get to see everything up close. Some days are designed for lions whereas other days for leopards. Trust Inglebert. But beware; he will give you a full day of animal viewing. Our game drives started at 6 am sharp, so we were usually up at 5 am, and we often didn’t reach the lodge until 6 pm many evenings. We were all happy to have taken the extra day in Arusha; otherwise, I think the first day’s game drive would have been difficult due to fatigue.

Mbalageti Lodge: Of all of our accommodations, this was my favorite camp. These “tents” have cement floors, rock and concrete walls, and metal roofs. Although tarps separate the living area from the bedrooms, there are doors and rock walls separating the bathrooms. The rooms are equipped with wooden furnature, leather couches, and a TV /DVD. Various DVD’s are available for viewing, but we never turned on the TV. The rooms also have a small refrigerator with complimentary water, sodas and beer. The view from the attached wooden deck is spectacular.

The camp is well positioned for the May-June part of the migration. Obviously, this lodge is in the bush and animals can, and do, wander through the camp. After dark you are required to have a guide to leave the tent. The tents all have bathrooms with hot water; hair dryers, towels, soap and shampoo are provided. Apparently, the water is heated by solar power, so take your showers at night. The warm water supply in the morning is limited. Beds are very nice and comfortable. The electricity is turned off in the mid afternoon and from midnight to 5 am, so charge your electronics appropriately. Locking safe is available. The lodge has a pool, but the water was just too cold. Dinner was great. Breakfast was a boxed meal as was lunch. Both were excellent.

Serengeti Serena Lodge. Not a tented camp, but rustic and very nice. My son particularly appreciated the WiFi. The camp is well positioned for the central and north Serengeti with its resident lions and leopards. The views from the rooms and throughout the lodge are spectacular. Obviously, this lodge is in the bush and animals can, and do, wander through the camp. After dark you are required to have a guide to leave the tent. This camp has a resident leopard that killed a dik‐dik outside our room one evening. We were disappointed as to not have recorded the action digitally, but we heard it. However, the kill was made at 6 pm – during the daytime before you are required to have a Maasai walk around the camp with you. Watch small children carefully at all camps – especially this one. Apparently, this leopard left her cub in a lodge room in 2012; I guess she couldn’t find any daycare that day. Bathrooms are very well equipped; hair dryers, towels, soap and shampoo are provided. Beds are very nice and comfortable. The electricity is available throughout the day and night. Locking safe is available. The lodge has a pool, but the water was just too cold. Dinner was great. Breakfast was a boxed meal as was lunch. Both were excellent.

Ngorongoro Lion’s Paw Tented Camp: The most tent‐like experience of all three lodges. The view is spectacular. The camp is well positioned in the Ngorongoro Crater, so you get an early jump on the animals for those great early morning photos. This camp is at altitude, so it is cold at night and in the morning‐but I really didn’t need the long underwear – only a fleece jacket. No gloves are needed either. Obviously, this lodge is in the bush and animals can, and do, wander through the camp. After dark you are required to have a guide to leave the tent. Bathrooms are very well equipped; hair dryers, towels, soap and shampoo are provided. Unlike the other 2 camps, the toilet is behind a tarp – not a door. Also, the shower is actually a real camp shower – someone filling up the reservoir with 40 liters of hot water. Beds are very nice and comfortable. The electricity is available throughout the day and night. Locking safe is not available. Dinner was great as was breakfast. Lunch was an excellent boxed lunch.

Last day: After a 3-hour morning game drive where we watched lions devouring a fresh wildebeest kill, Inglebert drove us 3.5 hours from the Ngorongoro Crater to the Mount Meru Resort where we used 2 different day-rooms to shower and repack. Our clean clothes were waiting for us at the resort. We ate dinner at the hotel at 5 pm and were whisked away to the Kilimanjaro Airport by an Africa Dream Safari representative. We were dropped off at the departure door and we made our own way to the KLM counter. One exit form needs to be completed for each person prior to boarding your flight. KLM was very strict as to what could be considered hand luggage, so we ended up checking 4 bags back to the US (we only checked 1 bag coming to Arusha). Getting through emigration was easy; however, none of the bathrooms were working in the boarding area, so some of us had to leave and redo the process all over again. Our 4 checked bags made it to our destination without issue.

Electricity: You will need an EU plug adaptor as the American plug type will not work. Bring a power strip to charge multiple items at the same time. The voltage in Tanzania is 220 volts; whereas, in the US it is 110 volts. All of our cell phones, computers, and rechargeable camera charged without a converter. Things like hair driers made for the US market are not designed for that voltage and will burn up. If you insist on bringing your own hair dryers or curling irons you will also need to use a converter. We did use an inverter in the LandRover to charge the camera batteries during our long game drives. Of note, none of the lodges had AA batteries and the AAA batteries looked old, so bring a good supply of newly purchased batteries from home.

Disease and Health Issues: All of the rooms come equipped with mosquito netting, but we didn’t see many mosquitoes. We sprayed all of our clothes with Permethrin prior to departure and we rarely needed to use DEET containing substances. Red ants are found outside and can be painful so don’t play with them (sounds obvious, but they are intoxicating to watch and fun to provoke).

Consider bringing some medication designed to relieve itching due to bites and stings. Only one brief case of traveler’s diarrhea occurred, which resolved quickly with Lomotil and ciprofloxacin. Consider making an appointment with your physician to get a week supply of ciprofloxacin just in case the traveler’s diarrhea gets you too; Lomotil is available over-­‐the-­‐counter. The roads are hard – packed dirt and very ruff – it’s called the Serengeti massage, so bring some Tylenol and/or Advil. The sun can be bright, so bring sunscreen. The hats provided by Africa Dream Safari proved to be key at preventing sunburn.

Money and tips: It is difficult not to tip well after seeing the poverty in Arusha and in the Maasai villages. Bring more cash than you think you will need. I never used my credit card due to possible fraud issues, but I ended up with just $7 in my pocket when we arrived in the US.

You pay for all of your drinks including water at dinner (except at Lion’s Paw; drinks, including alcohol, are complementary). Take a lot of 1‐dollar bills with you to tip baggage‐porters and the Maasai to lead you to and from dinner in the dark. It is not much to us, but I think it makes a significant contribution to them. I blew through 100 $1 bills easily in just 8 days. Tip $10‐20 per day per group at each of the lodges. They all have tip boxes (except Lion’s Paw). Tip your driver guide $70/day – use $100 bills when possible.

Jay, Abby, Alex and Collin R.
Winston-Salem, North Carolina
Safari Dates: June 2, 2014 to June 9, 2014

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Ebola Cases in West Africa – Does It Impact My Tanzania Safari?

September 3, 2014

Recently we’ve had a few guests express concerns over the cases of Ebola being reported in West Africa and how and if that might impact their trips with Africa Dream Safaris. First off, our hearts and prayers go out to the impacted individuals and their loved ones. To date there have 3,500 cases of Ebola reported in West Africa including 1,900 deaths.

We understand there is concern over these tragic events but we would like to assure our guests the affected areas in West Africa have had zero impact on East Africa including Tanzania, Kenya or Uganda. There is no Ebola in Tanzania or anywhere near the areas where we operate our safaris. Furthermore, we have not received any cancellations due to concerns about Ebola and rightfully so. Since there appears to be a a lot of myths and confusion on the Internet about Ebola, we have found this article by NBC News entitled “Why are Americans so scared of Ebola” to be very helpful.

Keep in mind that Ebola is not airborne nor is it transmitted casually (one has to have intimate contact with blood or body fluids). This is similar to the way AIDS is transmitted. There are more deaths in Africa attributable to AIDS during a single day then all the Ebola deaths combined since its inception in 1976. Sadly, over 1.2 million deaths in Africa from AIDS were reported in 2011.

Please note that the affected areas of West Africa are thousands of miles away from the famous safari circuits of Tanzania including the Serengeti National Park. Much of Europe is actually closer to the affected areas of West Africa then the Serengeti. The distance between Liberia and Arusha, Tanzania is 3,567 miles.

Furthermore, there is no viable land route from the affected areas to where we operate our safaris and there are no direct flights between the affected areas and Tanzania. Kenya Airways the primary airline that would connect East and West Africa, has suspended all flights to the infected countries through Nairobi-Kenya, the African Hub, out of an abundance of caution.

Please see the below map that illustrates the vastness of the African continent compared to other countries.

* Map Created by Cartographer Kenneth Field, Kingston University London

Per the World Health Organization, even if a safari did include the affected areas of West Africa (which they do not), the actual risk is incredibly low:

The World Health Organization (WHO) states: ‘The risk of a tourist or businessman/woman becoming infected with Ebola virus during a visit to the affected areas and developing disease after returning is extremely low, even if the visit included travel to the local areas from which primary cases have been reported. Transmission requires direct contact with blood, secretions, organs or other body fluids of infected living or dead persons or animal, all unlikely exposures for the average traveler’s.’

We do hope that some good will yet come out of this tragedy in West Africa in that the significant media attention may raise awareness on the greatly underfunded and inadequate medical facilities that exist in Africa. Though there is no denying the horrible situation in the affected Ebola areas of West Africa, the much larger humanitarian crisis in Africa still remains AIDS and many other widespread and easily treatable conditions and diseases.

See below for official notification of Ebola free status in Tanzania.

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