Posts From March 2015

One Trip Was Not Enough

After our first Africa Dream Safari 2 ½ years ago in the dry season, we could not wait for another adventure in the green season. Again we were delighted with the tented camps, crater lodge, excellent food, the abundant wildlife, our knowledgeable driver- guide, Michael, and the delightful Tanzanian people we met along the way.

While staying in Arusha an extra day, we enjoyed a tour of this rapidly growing city. Visiting St. Jude’s School was inspirational!

On safari we were again treated to an exciting array of wildlife. Our safari included seventy lions, ten cheetahs, eleven black rhinos, numerous giraffes, troupes of baboons and Velvet Monkeys, hippos, elephants everywhere, and the great migration of zebra and wildebeest as far as the eye could see. Since pictures are worth a thousand words, below is a small sample.

We had been told by an acquaintance that if a person had only one trip to take, it would be to Tanzania. Now we are believers! And ADS is the best way to do it!!

Katherine and Howard E.
Lexington, South Carolina
Safari Dates: March 5, 2015 to March 13, 2015

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The Cheetah Jumped On The Hood Of Our Vehicle!

Going on safari was on my wish list and I discussed partaking in this type of trip with a friend who wanted to see the animal migration in Africa. Through research she discovered African Dream Safaris and suggested we use them.

From my initial encounter with Dawn Anderson through the detailed planning, thought the safari and follow up I have been delighted that we selected African Dream Safaris for this adventure. The treatment of the planning through execution of this trip has been of the highest professional and warm quality of any experience of my life.

We planned the trip a year before. I never had planned a trip so far in advance. It was a joy to receive my packet with a t-shirt, safari hat, map and a book describing the trip and any details that we would need to address to make this trip safe, exciting and successful.

There are so many details to consider on this type of adventure from travel logistics, to health concerns, to accommodation choices, to what to bring and what to expect. Everything was covered with wonderful support by Dawn Anderson and Cathy King.

Staying 24 hours in Amsterdam while traveling each direction made the travel much easier.

We were met at the airport in Kilimanjaro immediately and guided through customs efficiently. Our greeter and driver were wonderful. The African Tulip was a great boutique hotel that welcomed us to Africa. We happily stayed 2 nights to help us through jetlag. Our flight to the Serengeti was smooth and I was delighted to meet our guide Russell Thomas Temu.

I loved Russell from the moment that I met him. He was smiling, confident and accommodating. I never imagined that the safari adventure could be as breathtaking and educational as it was. Russell’s wealth of knowledge enabled me to understand how nature all works to continue the cycles of land, insects, animals, etc. His joy of discovery was obvious. Even though he’s a seasoned guide, Russell brings a passion and delight in seeing and sharing the animals and nature at all times. I felt honored to spend the safari time learning from Russell and sharing the excitement each day of our discoveries. It was truly an honor to have this time with him.

My best day was when we toured from Lake Masek. We saw a pregnant cheetah and there were about 5 other vehicles around. Russell saw the cheetah making a move and suggested that we sit down and get quiet. Sure enough, she jumped on the hood of our vehicle and remained visiting with us for quite awhile. Russell’s knowledge and vision to see the animals was superb.

The accommodations at every place we stayed were terrific. I especially loved the tenting camps that placed us in the middle of the animals. Getting into bed with a hot water bottle was such a special touch. The food and service was fabulous at every place we stayed. I loved hearing the lions roar all night and then seeing them in the morning.

I’ve fallen in love with my African experience and love to return. I thank African Dream Safaris for all of the ways they made this journey so inspiring, safe, exciting and fun.

Thanks again,

Shanti G.
Delray Beach, Florida
Safari Dates: February 24, 2015 to March 8, 2015

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Tanzanian Splendor!

After a trip to South Africa 2 years ago, I knew I had to return to Africa to experience the wonders of the Serengeti. My search for a safari company ended when, at the suggestion of a friend, I discovered ADS. One phone conversation with Dawn Anderson convinced me that at last I had found the company that would make my dream come true!

During the year that passed before my departure for Tanzania, Dawn proved an invaluable source of assistance and was a delight to work with. With her wealth of knowledge and insightful suggestions, we mapped out my trip from beginning to end. She has the patience of a saint, a delightful sense of humor, and went above and beyond the norm to answer my endless questions and make sure I was well prepared for my journey. I was ready to travel by myself, but much to my delight, my two friends, Seena and Shanti, decided to join me on this great adventure once they learned of the fabulous itinerary Dawn and I had put together.

To say that ADS exceeded our expectations every step of the way is putting it mildly! From the moment we landed in Arusha and were greeted by Matias and Timan, we knew we were in good hands. Then it was on to the Serengeti where we met our guide, Russell, who quickly became our teacher, protector and friend for the duration of our safari. His enthusiasm was infectious, his patience and kindness unsurpassed, and his knowledge of the land, its animals, birds, plants, and the Tanzanian people was amazing! We were repeatedly astounded by his ability to spot not only game, but such tiny insects as safari ants, identify birds by their sounds, and predict animals’ movements. And he seemed to anticipate our every need!

We stayed at the tented camps Seronera Sametu, Lake Masek, and Lion’s Paw. In each camp we found the staff to be wonderful, friendly and helpful in every way, accommodations were comfortable, and food was great! Our last stop was at beautiful Gibb’s Farm, where we found luxurious cottages to be our accommodations, sumptuous food, and again, a delightful staff who worked hard to make sure our stay was nothing short of divine!

A few of my favorite moments:

-The pregnant cheetah who hung out on the hood of our vehicle for a long while, periodically peering in the windshield at Russell. He became our “cheetah man” forever after and we dubbed ourselves the “cheetah girls”!

-Lying in our comfy beds at night, surrounded by mosquito netting & warmed by hot water bottles, listening to the noises of the animals outside our tents…lions, hyenas, zebra and wildebeest making their presence known.

-Wake up calls featuring freshly brewed coffee and hot milk brought to our tents.

-Watching the pride of lions for 2 hours who were within sight of our tents at Seronera Sametu.

-Seeing so many mama animals and their babies…they were everywhere!

-The sundowner campfire and sunset at Lion’s Paw camp.

-Visiting the Masai boma.

-My visit to the F.A.M.E. facilities in Karatu.

-The morning spent with the Hadza people (bushmen). A rare treat that seemed like it came right out of National Geographic!

My experiences went way beyond seeing the breathtakingly beautiful land, wonderful animals, plants, and birds of the Serengeti, Ngorongora crater and conservation area, and encountering the people who reside in glorious yet at times harsh settings. I truly could see the “circle of life” playing out right before my eyes as I took in all this incredible land has to offer. The wonders of Tanzania and its people will remain in my heart forever, my life changed in indescribable ways by this journey. I shall be forever grateful…and I shall return.

Asante sana to all the people at ADS…each of you have touched my life and made my dream come true!

Chere K.
Mount Pleasant, South Carolina
Safari Dates: February 24, 2015 to March 8, 2015

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Our 5th Safari To Tanzania!

Asante sana ADS!! – this was our Best trip yet!! And that is not an easy feat considering this was our fifth ADS safari. We have travelled with our daughter as a family three times, and this was the second time we have brought a group. Last time, a group of photographers, and this time a group of friends after a Habitat For Humanity Build in Ethiopia.

From our middle of the night airport meet & greet/visa assistance, to the midnight shuttle back to the airport ten days later, the ADS staff looked after everything. Africa Dream Safari’s did their absolute best to ensure we had an amazing and hassle free experience, with emphasis on Amazing!

First a Thank-you to Michael for your help in putting together an itinerary that was designed to provide us access to the migration, the Big Five, and a huge variety of other birds and animals – it did not disappoint.

We were a group of ten, eight who were first-timers to Tanzania, and we had two private safari vehicles. Our ADS driver guides, Anglebert & David were THE BEST! They worked with us to plan the each day, suggesting areas they felt would be best, given the rain, and migration situation. They always listened to our feedback, and as we have come to expect from ADS staff, were always willing and enthusiastic about early morning game drives. Anglebert and David were really outstanding, and treated us to long days, off the beaten path drives, and loads of game viewing. There were days we hardly saw another vehicle, and could enjoy the view and spend as much time as we liked with the animals without interruption.

Everyone in the group commented at some point about the game spotting skill demonstrated by the drivers. How do they manage to see things from so far away? How can they tell a leopard tail from a tree branch from 500 yards away? How can they actually know the names of all those birds? Always pleasant, endlessly answering our questions about the animals, birds and the plants, and willing to share their books on each, Anglebert and David are true professionals. They kept us safe, their knowledge of animal behavior not only found us the game, but would often put us in its path – so the animals walked right up to us. Anglebert, an accomplished photographer himself, would position our vehicle just right for the light and the best angle, so even the smallest point and shoot cameras got terrific shots.

It is absolutely true that a good driver-guide can absolutely change your safari experience. We have traveled with eight different ADS drivers, and have always been impressed at the terrific job they do. The company standards for hiring are obvious in the experience and education of the staff – The bonus you get as an ADS customer is in the passion, the work ethic, and the desire the guides bring with them. They are trained, educated, specialists who are committed to making your safari experience excellent in every way.

The highlight of this trip for us, was Anglebert managing to get us in front of a pack of more than 20 wild dogs. In five trips, this was the first time we have seen them, and they did not disappoint. (You might be surprised how many photographs can be taken in an hour) It was a thrill to even see the dogs, endangered and elusive, and then to have them hang around and cooperate for so long…Wow!

On previous trips we have tried almost everything as far as lodging goes, and have decided we like the tented camp experience best. We were treated to excellent food, great staff, and daily hot showers at four different camps this trip. The hot water bottles tucked into the beds at night and coffee delivered with wake up calls were big hits, much like the popcorn and campfire’s under the stars. But more importantly, we were in terrific locations for the best game viewing every day.

The camp staff were terrific, and made us a hot breakfast at 5:30 AM, and got our box lunches ready so we could head out each day before dawn. In the evenings, they were pleasant & willing to provide hot water for showers before dinner, regardless how late we turned up back at camp – which was mostly after dark.

Every time we travel with ADS, we are impressed with the exceptional service we encounter in the camps along the way. This trip a standout was Gilbert from Ndutu Woodlands Camp – who captivated our group by sharing personal stories around the campfire, of his life and childhood growing up as a Maasai.

This was our 5th trip to Tanzania, and no matter how many times you go, you cannot escape the excitement, or how addictive it can be. It is difficult to explain the overall experience to anyone who hasn’t done it, other than just to say – “YES!! JUST DO IT!!” Once you do, you will face the same challenges our group did after this trip…

Trying to explain to someone that you saw more than 50 lions before lunch that day, or that 17 of them were eating a zebra right beside your vehicle.

Or how totally cool it is to watch a young cheetah playfully race in circles around his mom, then climb a tree stump and pose perfectly for photo’s in the warm golden light of sunrise.

Trying to explain the smile that comes to your face as you watch a couple of little lion cubs chew on their mom’s tail & then tumble around playing tag while the sun rises behind them. (This is why you get up and get out before the sun comes up!)

Or how do you describe what it’s like to see a herd of more than 200 elephants on the move, or how fast your heart is beating as you try to sit quietly while they surround your vehicle, because your driver has managed to park you right where they end up crossing the road.

And how do you explain sitting around a campfire at night and looking up at the sky so full of stars, and so bright they don’t even look real.

All I can really say is – If you are even thinking about going to Tanzania, you cannot do better than to go with Africa Dream Safari’s, and go now – It will change your life! As it has our family’s’. Thank you Michael and all the ADS staff from the bottom of our hearts.

Cheryl and Greg Stewart
Regina, Canada
February 12, 2015 to February 20, 2015

Ngorongoro Crater Viewpoint

Serengeti Cheetah

Zebra with weaver birds

Lion cubs under our vehicle

Elephant Viewing – Tarangire National Park

Elephant Viewing – Ngorongoro Crater

Leopard

African Wild Dog

Lions with zebra kill

Lioness with cubs

Our group in the Serengeti

Maasai Boma Dance

Lioness

Cheetah

Spotted Hyena

Wild Dog

Golden Jackal

Black Backed Jackal

Bat eared Fox

Banded Mongoose

Dwarf Mongoose

Elephant

Cape buffalo

Black rhino

Masai giraffe

Eland antelope

Thomson’s gazelle

Steinbok antelope

Dik-dik antelope

Martial Eagle

Secretary Bird

Kori Bustard

African Crowned Crane

Lappet Faced Vulture

Lilac Breasted Roller

European Roller

Superb Starling

Red Billed Hornbill

Green Bee-Eater

Red-and-yellow barbet

Long-tailed Widowbird

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Serengeti Symphony

Africa, you called to me.
Your primitive wildness
heralded this weary journeyer.
Tired of technology
with all its many impersonal
buttons, passwords and ring tones.

Having traversed world’s
of inner and outer realities
and spheres of perceptions,
vision quests and dreams,
I wearied.

Africa, you called to me.
Your essential naturalness
invited me home.
The essential self longing
for “the real, the meaningful,
the true”.

Life rhythms, slow and sensual.
Sound symphonies, melodic and harsh.
Nature’s life-death cycle most visible
on Serengeti soil.

The simplicity of balance,
married to purpose and passion,
reflected in each sacred animal specie
in residence, visible here.

Survival of the fittest,
the fundamental foundation
in this land of primitive hierarchy.
The prowl for the kill;
the hunt for the weaker ones,
add natural dystonic chords
to the Serengeti symphony.

Animal sounds pervade
all hours of lightness and darkness.
From dawn to dusk,
the Serengeti symphony resonates.
Even the blades of grass join in the chorus.

The land, going from
vast expanse, unlimited horizons,
to dense, deep foliage,
dotted by Masai Kopes (Rock Formations)
and camouflaged animals,
pervade the senses.

Seeing into the invisible world,
one of Serengeti’s gifts
in its plethora of many,
as orientation and accommodation
naturally occur.

Infusion of eros,
magnificent in all her many forms,
the truest monarch
reigning the Serengeti.

Africa, you called to me.
Your primitive wildness
kisses and awakens the
restless spirit deep within…
and…surely…
I welcome…HER!

By Dr. Seena A.
Plainview, New York
Safari Dates: February 22, 2015 to March 8, 2015

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My Day-By-Day Safari Journal

2/12/15 – Today we landed in Tanzania; Kilimanjaro Airport. No jet way, just down the stairs to an open tarmac and into a building where Machas from ADS greeted us. The immigration line was long and hot. The anticipation of the next 10 days made it bearable.

We loaded our belongings and ourselves into a vehicle driven by Michael and drove about 50 min to Mt Meru resort. Machas remained with us. Stayed the night…room was nice; wood floors, open shower stall on a beautiful campus located up against Mount Meru.

2/13/15
Up before dawn, ate a buffet breakfast that included fresh fruit, omelet bar, muffins, bacon and sausage. Drove to Arusha airport, went through “security” and boarded a small plane (air Excel) and flew to Kogatende airstrip (North Tanzania, on our approach we made a sharp turn directly over the Mara River…you could see crocs in the river), picked up a European couple, and saw an elephant on our landing. Took off and flew about 25 min back south to the central part of the Serengeti and landed at Seronera airstrip… Both runways were short and gravel.

Upon our arrival we met our driver/guide Pokea “Poquer”. Pokea is short for Elipokea and he is from the Meru Tribe. Our safari began within minutes. We left the airport grounds and ran into a convoy of safari vehicles watching a pride of lionesses and several different age cubs devouring a zebra.

We moved right down the road to watch a herd of elephants, to include a ginormous male, and many young still nursing at times.

Our drive continued towards a neat picnic area at the top of a hill overlooking a corridor where the animal migration takes place during two other times of the year. Lunch consisted of a variety of foods in a box (pb&j, quiche, boiled egg, an item that resembled a meatloaf/pizza, apple, pound cake, nestle kit kat, pineapple juice box). The picnic area also had a small trailer selling snacks and cigarettes and a restroom with an attendant.

After lunch we left the hill and on the way down we spotted a leopard in the crotch of a yellow barked acacia tree. Later a troop of vervet monkeys entertained the five of us playing on the ground while others ate flowers at the top of an acacia tree.

Other animals we saw on today’s drive included wildebeest (met a herd outside our camp as we arrived), topi, hartebeest, reedbuck, Grant gazelle, Thomson gazelle, impala, dik dik, hippos, Maasai giraffe (our welcome committee at our camp as well as many others throughout the day), buffalo, warthog, zebra.

Birds were a plenty (too many to list), the largest being an ostrich; several crossed our path a couple of times today. We witnessed an Egyptian goose couple with a hand full of chicks. Red-billed oxpeckers rode on the giraffes to rid them of bugs/mites. A few others we were able to get photos of include: kori bustard, secretary bird, marabou stork, crown crane, Guinea fowl, heron, lilac breasted roller, superb starling, black wing stilt (orange legs), white belly bustard.

Trees rounded out the landscape. Several species of acacia trees provide shade and food for many of the Serengeti animals (umbrella thorn, yellow barked). Speaking of food, on our way to the picnic area we shot photos of a sausage tree.

We arrived at Seronera Sametu Camp around 6pm. Seronera Sametu Camp is located in the east central Serengeti (Serengeti originates from the Maasai word ’Siringit’, meaning ‘endless plains’). Upon our arrival we requested shower water (hot water is placed in a bucket rigged to push water into an en-suite shower).

Dinner was served at 7, which consisted of pumpkin soup, pan-fried fish, rice, a cucumber salad, mixed vegetables (cauliflower, carrot, green bean), and a roll. For desert Jonas (JJ) surprised the four of us with cakes wishing us Happy Anniversary.

After dinner we retreated to our tents to find the “windows” closed and warm water bottles heating our mosquito netted turned down bed.

2/14/15
Early to rise (5am wake up), breakfast at camp…scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon, porridge, toast, pancakes (reminded me of a fat crepe), and a variety of fresh fruit (pineapple, mango, papaya, watermelon), juice, tea and coffee.

We set out at 6am sharp. The drive started in the dark and off the beaten path. We came across a few hyenas and a couple of bat-eared fox. The sun granted us with its presence about an hour into the drive. The sunrise provided a backdrop for one of the most exciting activities of the morning trek; we witnessed a Hyena (a second one was present but pretty much watched) run down a young Thomson gazelle. The hyena chased the little guy out and back making the kill about 100 yards from our vehicle. As it ate we drove up closer and not only visualized the meal but also heard it.

Gazelles speckled the landscape as far as we could see. Pokea refers to the gazelle as cheetah food. Sure enough, next we came across a mother cheetah and her older cub. Hoping to see a chase we stayed with the pair for a bit. We did get teased when the younger took off after a rabbit; but he/she gave up rather quickly.

Next up was a long, pretty, quiet drive. Pokea had received word of a pair of male lions near our location and with some determination and a U-turn we came upon two male and two female lions resting in the shade of a tree. As part of the same pride, about a quarter of a mile up the road in a make shift den of tree limbs and shrubs, we found a lioness and her three, approx. two month old, cubs. At one point a cub wandered a yard or two out of the den towards our vehicle and the mother made a short, quick grunt and the cub responded immediately by retreating, right back to her side. After nursing the mother and three cubs took a nap.

As lunchtime approached we headed back in the direction of Seronera Sametu Camp. It must have been just past lion lunchtime because we drove up on a male lion resting next to a “skinned” warthog. Two vultures were in close proximity pecking away at scraps.

Further down the road we witnessed three species of vultures (white-back, ruppells griffon and the lappet-faced) finishing off a kill, as we watched a black-backed jackal hurried across the road and jumped right in to the feeding frenzy.

Almost back to camp and getting pretty hungry we spot a newborn Thomson gazelle and become pretty intrigued by how well camouflaged a newborn is once the mother stopped hovering over it. It took us a bit to locate the baby Tommie even in the pretty low vegetation.

Lunch consisted of spaghetti, veggies, and fresh fruit cocktail. After lunch our group spent the next several hours scoping out our camp’s surroundings. Wildebeest, hartebeest, zebra, warthogs, buffalo, elephant and topi grazed the hillside across the valley from our tent.

Kopjes: means little head. Kopjes are rock outcrops. These rock outcrops of the Serengeti are one of the Park’s most delightful habitats. The most visible ones stand out like islands on the plains. They host a variety of vegetation and wildlife.

At 4pm we returned to our vehicle and drove towards the Maasai Kopjes where we were met by a handful of giraffes grazing on small acacia trees. From there we traveled with a plan to explore the Sametu Marsh Kopjes when another driver alerted Pokea of a leopard with a kill high in a nearby umbrella thorn acacia tree. Upon our arrival the leopard moved/leaped higher in the tree leaving two kills lower and viewable by our cameras; we didn’t stay long as it appeared the leopard might be a bit skittish and disturbed by our presence.

Continuing onto the Sametu Marsh Kopjes, thankful we stayed the course, landed us a lengthy visit with about a dozen elephants. We were able to watch them eat, play, nurse, relieve themselves before they sauntered off the kopjes out onto the plains.

Before leaving camp for our afternoon excursion Tami arranged for a group photo in our vehicle and then asked Pokea if he’d assist with setting up a great sunset photo shoot upon our return “home”. Wow, Pokea met Tami’s challenge with a bit of off-roading and good timing; successful photo opportunity of the sunset. As we approached camp we spotted a hyena running through tall grass with a kill.

Shortly after our return to camp just long enough to shower dinner was served, comprised of lentil soup, grilled pork chop, potatoes, mixed veggies (hot and cold) and desert (passion fruit cheesecake).

During dinner the camp staff prepares your tent for sleep by closing the “windows”, dropping mosquito netting and placing warm water bladders into our turned down bed.

2/15/15
Wake up was at 5, breakfast 5:30 (great selection to include Spanish omelets). We were on the road at 6:10. The first animal we came upon, a civet, scurried off too quickly for a photo. A newborn wildebeest tracked us down to see if we were his mother or maybe asking directions. He ran toward a herd of wildebeest angling away from hyenas we spotted nearby. A few jackals crossed our path on our way to see “Steve”, the leopard, in his tree. Next we watched two cheetahs playing around a tree and on and off the road.

Pokea decided we’d eat lunch at Ngon Rock so we took in the scenery and animals on our way. We saw giraffe, dik dik, and elephants (spent a lengthy visit with the elephants). A large male showed us how he could extend his reach by kneeling on one knee.

During our drive Pokea stopped because a handful of guinea fowl were agitated and angry. We spotted the source of their anxiety, a serval creeping up to them. A martial eagle perched atop a tree looking over his territory allowed us a photo op. Next we saw our first baboons, speckling the top of an acacia tree shoveling flowers one at a time into their mouths. We slowly approached a male lion resting in the grass; Pokea was able to get close enough that we were able to smell his breath…not good.

Our drive took us past a kopje with a set of Maasai Paintings and a cave where ten warriors lived up until about 100 years ago. We enjoyed a box lunch at Ngon Rock (a conference area for Maasai Warrior Chief). A large orange slice shaped rock and a small stone hit together provided the Chief a bell to summons his people. After eating we drove approx. a quarter mile up the road and found 3 female and a very young male lion resting on the rocks. Up a bit further we past a second set of lions resting on rocks.

Pokea educated us to impala behaviors as we approached a large herd of impalas; one male gets to be patriarch of ALL of the females while all other mature males form a bachelor herd. We arrived to our final destination, Retima Hippo Pool; in a downpour…brief visit but entertaining.

We refueled and used the facilities at the Park’s Visitor Center. The grounds are home to many hyraxes. Heading back to camp Pokea spotted another leopard about 150 yards out lounging in a sausage tree; to be sure Steve wasn’t jealous we checked on him as well on our way back to camp.

Dinner was leek soup, steak, mashed potatoes, mixed veggies and a roll, and banana custard for desert. We ate with Fran, Mark and Wilfred, the only other residents.

2/16/15
Packed up and said goodbye to Seronera Sametu Camp staff after eating a made to order breakfast. We passed by Steve’s tree to wish him well. He was still there along with his two day old kills. Took a few photos of a pretty new zebra before we met up with a herd of elephants two of which were in a “heated discussion”; obtained footage of their water break and their return to action.

The start of rainy season, February, is a time for many births in the Serengeti. Today we drove by a mother and newborn giraffe (still had umbilical cord) and hartebeest and their babies. Another newborn wildebeest approached our vehicle looking for its mother. The wildebeest calf “talked” to Pokea for a bit before we drove off leaving it to find its mother.

Two young male lions made it difficult for us to get to the Sometu Kopjes because they were lounging in the middle of the “road”. Pokea wanted to have lunch upon arriving to the Sometu Kopjes but every kopje had either lions or hyenas occupying our planned rest stop. By the fifth formation and tons of photos of lions, hyenas (mating pair), jackals, agama lizards (male, two colored orange/red and blue) we couldn’t wait any longer. With hyenas on one side we drove to the other and had a “standing” picnic lunch.

After lunch we continued our journey towards the Ndutu area of the park passing a kopje with an owl in the crack; the “Devil Tree” which accommodated a large lappet-faced vulture nest; and a herd of Thomson gazelle (two of which were clashing). Warthogs grazing and marabou storks kept us entertained on the way to Ndutu Lake to watch the flamingos feed. The water in Ndutu Lake is alkaline and very salty providing less pink food for the flamingos, hence their white color. We did see one spread its wings and saw a brilliant pink under layer.

It rained the last bit of today’s trip; our approach to our new home for the next three nights – Camp Masek. Camp Masek sits high, elevation: 5070 ft., overlooking Lake Masek. This was our first chance for Wi-Fi (slow but a nice perk). Camp Masek is eco-friendly. All power is supplied by solar electricity. Rainwater is harvested and collected for use. Ndutu Lake Woodlands reside in the southern plains of the Serengeti. Camp Masek employs several Maasai Warriors to guard and escort safari guests around campus. Hippos and buffalo are known to roam the grounds at night.

We arrived and were warmly greeted with a snack and a short briefing about our stay and introduction to our tent in preparation for dinner. Our group joined Mark, Fran and Wilfred (their driver/guide) in the large lodge for dinner. We enjoyed a buffet dinner with an open bar. Franreynolds@comcast.net

First night proved to be adrenaline filled; shower time in particular (outside shower). We heard several lion growls/roars and hippo yells as we showered and prepared for sleep. While at dinner our tent was prepared by an attendant for sleep…mosquito netting and window closures. No warm water bladders.

2/17/15
Wake up call at 5:30; got a late start this morning because we were busy chatting with Mark and Fran at the lodge. We left for our drive shortly before 7. Stopped to watch the flamingoes at Ndutu Lake on our way to the migration. Prior to reaching our destination we came upon a cheetah just passing through. We saw more lions today, three females, two of which were resting and one was grazing on grass to aid her upset stomach.

Just off the road we spotted a mother hyena and three 6-7 month old pups laying on their den, eventually two wandered off and we left to move on to our next amazing sight…millions of zebras and wildebeest migrating to the rain. As far as we could see in all directions and for several kilometers of driving zebras and wildebeest speckled the horizon. At times it seemed like every third wildebeest was a newborn, many young zebras as well. Pokea told the group that 30-35% of the wildebeest die each migration due to three reasons: natural causes, predators, water. During the drive we spotted several hyenas and a jackal or two, none of which were interested in feeding. Elands (Serengeti’s largest antelope), gazelles, impalas and lots of birds rounded out our morning drive.

As we drove you could look down on the ground and watch balls of dung being rolled by dung beetles. While stopped to video this crazy creature in action a newborn wildebeest, still wet from birth, wandered up to us calling out for its mother. It attached itself to our vehicle. Pokea lead it by driving towards a herd of wildebeest to encourage it to find an adoptive mother. Speaking of wildebeest we had the pleasure of watching about two-dozen or so vultures “pick apart” a dead wildebeest on our way back to camp for lunch. The couple hour break was nice as Camp Masek is on a hill with steep and rocky terrain that makes for bumpy rides in out of camp each drive.

After lunch we drove to the Large Marsh, an area known to host lion and cheetah breeding. No such luck for our group, all was quiet in the marsh. On our way there we were lucky enough to catch a mother Cheetah and her two cubs (approx. 4 mos.) lounging in the short grass just outside of the migration area. Also on our way we came across a grounded tawny eagle that had caught herself a stork. Many of the usual animals showed up on our drive home: zebras, giraffes, elephants, and impalas.

We arrived back to camp around 6:30 (Conservation area as well as Serengeti National Park close at 6pm). Cleaned up for a 7:30 dinner. Mark, Fran, and Wilfred, their driver/guide joined us for a three-course buffet with open bar, could easily get use to this.

2/18/15
Early breakfast again today, left by 645. Pokea took us by a temporary Maasai camp. A small clearing with a few mud and stick huts as well as a makeshift pen to put their cattle at night. Dogs protect the cattle from predators during the night.

We drove towards the migration at sun up to maximize the chance of a “hunt”. Not to disappoint the cheetahs blessed us with their presence. I think we saw a total of 5 but it was hard to keep count. We witnessed one attempt to chase down a gazelle, a second ran far in the distance after what we think was a gazelle as well. We followed several more as they strolled through the migration. As we searched for more action we noticed a group of safari vehicles and drove by to catch a glimpse of a cheetah that had a kill (baby wildebeest).

We departed just as she started to eat to allow her space and privacy. We saw more hyenas today…a group of seven at one home range (a den with several openings to accommodate a pack of females with their cubs). 2 female lions sleeping, neither moved even when we drove up to check them out.

Birds captured our attention today as well. We briefly saw an African Grass Owl (flew off before photo); a Verreaux owl; an adolescent Bateleur Eagle as well as a male Kori Bustard (largest flying bird in Africa) with a swollen neck, hoping to attract a female partner. We found several small birds (love birds) bathing in a puddle.

A mid size leopard turtle missing his left front foot scooted across the road in front of us. Just one occasion Pokea’s amazing eyesight prevailed; they blend in to their surroundings quite well.

Back to camp for lunch, where we dined on amazing fried tilapia and beans/rice on the back deck overlooking Lake Masek. A nice restful afternoon and back out for a drive around Lake Masek. Met up with a few of the hippos who swam close to the shore; several of which we photographed out of the water at lunch from the lodge deck. A mother hippo and her very young calf relaxed just off shore, pretty far for a decent photo, though. Vervet monkeys showed up around the second bend of the lake where we searched for a leopard spotted earlier in the day by others, no luck. On the opposite side of the lake Pokea drove us into the wildebeest graveyard, bones and skulls with antlers piled on the lakeshore indicative of the risk animals take to cross water in search of grass and following the rains. We returned to camp to enjoy another 3-course meal before retiring to our tent, rested well until 430am when the roar of lions awoke us.

2/19/15
Slept in today and enjoyed a quiet breakfast in the lodge prior to packing all of our bags to leave Camp Masek. We picked out items from a smorgasbord of fixing’s for our lunch we planned to eat on our way to the Ngorogoro Mountains.

Each group must register and pay a fee to enter a National Park or Conservation area; groups sign in/out at the ranger post. Both entering and leaving the Ndutu area the Ranger was not at the post because he was registering arriving and departing guests at the airport; we found him there and signed out. Thinking we were finished seeing all the migration had to offer Pokea made a quick detour when he spotted the passage of zebras, wildebeest, and giraffes across Lake Ndutu. Quite an amazing image, it looked almost like a parade of marching bands.

The middle part of the day we spent driving towards the Ngorogoro Mountains on a “highway”. It was flat, rocky and vehicles drove very fast; it didn’t help that the wind blew hard today. Along the way we came upon a young couple and the vehicle they drove, apparently on a self guided tour and unprepared for the road conditions. They had wrecked, flipped a complete turn but were uninjured awaiting the police and a tow when we stopped to ask if they needed any assistance.

Maasai Village: paid $40 to hear and see the village. The Chief’s son met us at our vehicle, accepted our monetary offering and facilitated the dances. Men and women danced separately. After dancing we joined the tribe inside their meeting place (also used to corral their animals at night) to witness the tribe’s “jumping” ritual. We received a lecture about their culture during our tour of the village.

This village practices polygamy, not all do. Each husband’s wives had their own home. Each home has four rooms: wife/husband bedroom, children bedroom, a kitchen and a living room. They were made of sticks, bushes branches, cardboard and mud. Women have five jobs: build homes, child rearing, laundry, preparing food (consists of milk, blood and meat), and making crafts for the market. The village obtains blood from their cows without killing them. They tourniquet their neck, poke it with an arrow and drain out about a liter. Men have two jobs: protecting the village and shepherding the animals to and from water/grass to graze.

About 120 people live in this village, all one family. The grandfather rules the village while the grandmother acts as a midwife and assists the women with childbirth. As men of the village find women from other villages and marry they bring them to the man’s village, exchange animals (dowry: cows, goats, donkey and sheep). We joined the school-aged children in their schoolhouse. Ages 3-10 attend school in the village schoolhouse while the older children attend secondary school in Ngorogoro or Arusha (boarding school). The primary source of income is the village market: crafts made by the women and sold to the tourist to help pay for food, water, clothing and school supplies.

Returned to the road and made our way to Ngorogoro Crater. We passed several more villages and grazing animals with Maasai “shepherds”. The landscape was eye-catching but we were unable to stop for photos along this stretch. We even saw a handful of camel.

We arrived at the crater rim around 1:25 pm (elev. 6700 ft), signed in at the ranger station, used the facilities and proceeded down the steep and rocky one-way road into the west (Serena) side of the crater. This area is referred to as a crater but it is actually a caldera (the sunken or collapsed cone of a volcano). It is the largest inactive and unbroken caldera in the world. The crater is 100 square miles, ten miles across and speckled with animals. The animals had to wait while we ate lunch in the LeRai forest. A troop of baboons crossed our path as we approached the picnic site.

After lunch we drove the crater roads looking for action. The crater is a microcosm of the Serengeti: open grasslands, streams, lakes, forests, and hills, all of the habitats that allow many animals to live in such a small area. On our first day within a few hours of our arrival we spotted 2 rhinos, pretty far from the road but still able to be seen.

While cruising the crater roads Pokea introduced us to his favorite bird, the crown crane, they travel in pairs and mate for life. Lions lying in the bushes brought on a convoy of safari vehicles, we took a quick peek but didn’t stay long allowing others to get a glimpse.

We left the crater on the opposite side we entered, heading east (Sopa) we ascended the crater wall and found Lion’s Paw Tented Camp hidden within a misty forest of acacia trees and ferns. Lion’s Paw resembles Seronera Sametu Camp, small and private. Tonight we joined the other residents of the camp at a bon fire. We visited with Fran and Mark as well as Luxpe and M.P. (Ann Arbor, MI – from India); Heidi and Dan (San Francisco Bay Area); Julie and Bob (Big Island, HI). Julie and Heidi are sisters. We had dinner in the main lodge and said our good byes and good nights.

2/20/15
Up early, breakfast at 5:30 and we were on the road at 6:15. Checked in at the ranger station to obtain entry permits. Shot a few photos of the sunrise and misted crater wall on our descent into the crater. On our way to Ngoitokitok Springs, our destination, we filmed zebras playing, jackals sleeping, elephants grazing and spotted 5 Black Rhinos, two on one side of the road and three on the other.

After taking many photos of the rhinos we moved up the road a bit where we watched hippos play. Speaking of hippos or should I say hippos speaking – Ngoitokitok Springs home to many hippos; we heard lots of hippo “noise”. We were able to record their grunts and howls. Many safari vehicles enjoyed breakfast at the springs while we were able to utilize the facilities. Hyenas roamed just off the hills in close proximity to dining guests. Back to the drive…hyenas and lions, the hyenas were close to the road, female lions in the bushes and two beautiful male lions lying next to a tree.

The late morning proved to be a delight. First, we witnessed a newborn wildebeest (learning to stand/walk, nurse and hop around). The mother wildebeest remained quite still for most of the ten minutes we observed the two getting acquainted. Secondly, we watched black rhinos mate; almost certain this is not an activity one sees very often since there are only approx. 115 black rhinos left in the world.

We returned to Ngoitokitok Springs for lunch, wow many vehicles had the same program for today (although we were told that the safari business is not doing well and this is considered a low census for lunch). Pokea asked us to eat in the car and get out after we complete our meal because of a dangerous bird, the Kite, which will attack people to get their food. While eating, the view out of the car windows (our “flat screen”) provided several humorous short clips: First, two hippos chasing each other emerged from the spring and ran towards people enjoying the view. People scattered and one dude even climbed the tree. Secondly, a French safari customer dining out of his car next to us attempted “ninja” moves in defending his lunch…he was not successful. It took two kites to strip his sandwich from him. Our group had plenty of laughs during today’s lunch.

After lunch our main goal was to see a “baby” buffalo and to travel the Rumbe Hills (or the Ang’ata Kit translated Women’s belt in Swahili), which is where many buffalo roam because of the longer grass. This area is also home to the resident lion pride. On our way to the hills we found a wildebeest stuck and or possibly injured in a shallow water hole containing a half dozen or so hippos. We hung out for a bit because we spotted a hyena anticipating the wildebeests doomed outcome. At one point a hippo chased off the hyena but the hippos did not seem to mind the wildebeest in their space.

On the backside of the Hills, eastern section of the crater, we found a large herd of buffalo, males, females and their young. The quick ascent to camp was briefly hampered by two large groups of Maasai cattle herds and their young men shepherds. Early return to camp gave us plenty of time to relax and get to know camp staff, shower and plan for dinner. Edward served us fresh roasted cashews with drinks before dinner. Tonight was broccoli soup (cinnamon roll), beef, sautéed potatoes and green beans. For desert Edward presented us with a going away cake.

2/21/15
Wake up at 530; breakfast at 6 and said good-bye to Lion’s Paw and off to Lake Manyara. We drove the rim road for about a third of the way around the crater and then headed down through farm country and the town of Karatu. We arrived at Lake Manyara National Conservatory and waited in the car for Pokea to check in and obtain entry permits.

Last game drive of our trip introduced us to the blue monkey and the monitor lizard. We have already crossed paths with the other animals residing in this area: baboons (lots of baboons, this park is sometimes referred to as Baboon Park), vervet monkey, hippo, elephant, wildebeest, gazelle, buffalo, and warthog. The park’s trees and foliage made it difficult to find the resident lion pride or see a leopard but it diversified our safari experience and was worth the quick trip in and out. We enjoyed our last meal/box lunch in the bush at a nice picnic area just inside the park exit.

After lunch we returned to the road, black top, yay. Pokea received a call to inform us that Mt Meru Resort was too busy and our day room was changed to The African Tulip (not African Toilet). Nice place, dinner was ok, shower refreshing but we were ready to be home. Machas and Timon met us at the hotel and drove us to Kilimanjaro Airport, pulling over on the crazy highway so we could photograph Mt Kilimanjaro, which is usually difficult to see due to fog/smoke/clouds.

The airport stay went by surprisingly quick. Our KLM flight to Amsterdam was smooth, with a quick stop in Rwanda (Kigali airport). Trip home went well, no issues. Arrived in Denver on time to a good 6 to 10 inches of snow. Our wonderful neighbors had already shoveled our drives and sidewalks.

Wendy and John M.
Thonton, Colorado
Safari Dates: February 12, 2015 to February 21, 2015

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