An Amazing Solo Safari Experience!

I just returned from an incredible 7 day Tanzanian safari experience, and once again I have ADS to thank for it! I should begin by saying that I have been on safari with ADS 4 times in the past, and have had some pretty amazing experiences. Each time I have gone in the past, I have traveled with various groups of friends, most of whom had never been on safari before we went together, so getting to see the wonders of Africa fresh and new each time through their eyes was always so enlightening, creating experiences I will most certainly remember for a life time.

So then, just how does one go on safari for the 5th time with ADS and make it any better than the previous 4? Well, you change it up a little and you decide to go on a solo safari, of course!

ADS already spoils you when it comes to going in a small group, because even in a group you are still going on a gloriously “private” safari experience. But I have to say, now that I have done it, there really, truly is NOTHING quite like going on an African safari solo!

After meeting up with my AMAZINGLY gifted guide Raphael, once he knew my safari experience history, we were off on a mission to seek out my wish list, to include things I really – somewhat selfishly – wanted to see! As much as I always appreciate and am in awe when it comes to viewing ALL of the incredibly diverse animal population in Tanzania, it seems I also have a deeply personal love for the big cats, the elusive leopard in particular, and any and all “babies.” And of course experiencing the thrill that comes from witnessing the great migration was also on top of my wish list as well! So seeking these things out became our main priority. And dare I say, thanks to Raphael, I was not to be disappointed!

We saw incredible sightings of elephant, hippo, and crocodile – behavioral interactions, and of course we witnessed several various sections of the incredible great migration! Some of my BEST video settings were of zebra and wildebeest herds on the move – a seemingly endless stream – galloping wildly across the savanna, plowing through various watering holes and other bodies of water – we were immersed in the sights and sounds that simply mesmerize those who are lucky enough to witness it in person. So amazing….

And when it came to leopards – in total we saw no less than 9, and most were very close to us. Happily, three sightings were “extremely” close, as close as one can get, in that they were in trees right next to our vehicle! I was amazed! And of these sightings, my favorite had to be the morning we enjoyed viewing three in ONE tree – a male, a female, and a cub – with a kill! We just sat back and watched them interact in the early morning light. They were RIGHT next to us… I think I can honestly say it was one of my favorite safari sightings of all time, and I got some incredible pictures!

Lions were also aplenty, so many I lost count over time, and so we also had some incredibly memorable sightings of them as well. I think my favorite was when we were with three beautiful young and healthy males who moved from the damp morning grass to stand on the bare boulders of the kopjes, looking off into the light of the rising sun, as a stiff early morning breeze blew their manes back away from their faces/eyes! They were so majestic!

We also experienced a few more magical moments, such as when a gorgeous dark-maned male followed and mated with a somewhat reluctant female (Let’s just say he had to follow her for a ways before she would finally submit!), three VERY playful two to three month old cubs playing all around – and over – their very patient mother, and then there was the day we watched as fourteen LITTLE baby cubs followed one of three lionesses in the tall grass to a site close to their kill, where the other two mothers patiently waited. Yes, these three mothers had fourteen little ones shared amongst them! And dare I say, between the way these little ones both looked and sounded as they tried to keep up with the mother lioness, they were simply precious!

As I take the time necessary to review my nearly 5000 pictures (thanks to today’s technology!), and then to reflect over my nearly 1000 favorites, I feel so incredibly fortunate to have gotten the shots that I did – and one thought keeps coming back to mind: if there is ANYTHING that I have learned from my past safari experiences over the years, it’s that the most memorable and remarkable sightings of leopards, lions and most other carnivores almost always tends to happen sometime between the hours of 6:00 AM and 10:00 AM.

So I think I can safely say that if you truly want to enjoy the pleasure of viewing “active” animals throughout the Serengeti, leaving before the break of dawn is imperative.

It is also just as important that later in the day one makes every effort to drive far away from the lodge locations and from other safari vehicles (especially for mid-day cheetah sightings). It seems most other company drivers tend to leave the lodges with their groups after breakfast and then hang out in the same general vicinity, due to what I can only assume are their companies’ limited mileage allowances. (Which ADS happily does NOT have!)

As an example of why I say this, for the leopard male, mother and cub, even though we were in the central Serengeti area, it was around 0630/0700, and we were the ONLY ones there. I can only attribute this to the fact that we had left the lodge in the dark – around 6:00 – which was as early as we were allowed by the lodge to leave (we were dependent upon them for our boxed breakfasts/lunches).

When we finally decided to leave the leopard family of three, (around 0830) the cub had climbed down and was hidden away in the grass, the male had moved to another tree farther away (taking the kill with him!), and the female was sleeping, apparently ready to rest for the day. The entire time we were there with them, they were active and alert, and we had been completely alone with them the entire time…which made the experience oh, so much more special! Truly, it was simply amazing…

And all of the mid-day cheetahs we saw with their cubs and gazelle kills were very far away from the central area crowds. Again, for most sightings we were the only ones there! I believe we saw over 10 cheetah total, and they were always “right there” next to us.

And the BEAUTIFUL male lions on the boulders? It was just us, the early morning light, and the lions! We ate our breakfast while just sitting back and relaxing in our vehicle, just watching them interact.

I could go on and on, but the one common theme that ran throughout all of these “special” sightings – every single time it was just “us and the animals.” The TRUE benefits of ultra-early departures and eating boxed breakfasts and lunches!

I also feel I should mention that one of the reasons I have always loved my ADS driver guides is because not only are they always willing to leave at O-dark-thirty in the AM, they also highly ENCOURAGE it! And truth be told, I’d much rather eat my breakfast with a lion or a leopard than with a tourist!

So in closing, I would have to say that this was probably the most uniquely “satisfying” safari experience I personally have EVER had, only because now, with all of my past safari experiences under my belt, my guide and I were able to go out in search of things that were a little harder to seek out, but yet were sightings that I personally hoped to see! And this trip really did seem to be “all about the migration, the big cats, and the precious little babies!”

I simply LOVE the green season – rich colors and very healthy animals, to include lots of little ones – it truly is my favorite time of year!

Asante Sana to all for helping make this safari happen for me – but especially to Dawn Anderson, Michael Wishner, and to EVERYONE at ADS on the ground in Arusha, for blessing me with a true SOLO African Safari trip of a lifetime! It could NOT have been better!

Ann E.
Aviano, Italy
Safari Dates: March 31, 2017 to April 8, 2017

13 Comments Leave a Comment

  1. Absolutely fantastic pictures! I particularly love the lion cub pics! Thanks for sharing. We are planning our 3rd ADS trip and your pics are getting us excited!!!

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words! And I can’t tell you enough how much fun it was watching the little lion cubs, as they were just precious! I love the fact that I could just sit and watch them play for as long as I wanted to! One of the best memories from this trip! Good luck on your upcoming trip!

  2. Great photos,what kind of camera?My wife and I go for 12 days starting Sept.1,for our 50th.anni.bucket list trip.I my self want too see all the big cats also,and every thing else. Agin great photos!!

    1. Thank you so much for the kind compliment on my pics! It really was an amazing safari! In answer to your question, I have a Canon Rebel that I usually like to take/use on safari, but every one of the pictures you see here were taken with either my Nikon COOLPIX P600 or with my smaller, pocket camera, my Cannon PowerShot SX720 HS. I wanted to play around with smaller cameras this trip, because based on past experience I knew the animals would be so extremely close! Both of these cameras are much smaller than my Rebel, easy to handle, and don’t require switching out lenses with the zooms they have built in. I was more than happy with the ease of handling and the results! And I can also use the little Canon for some clips too, which is something I really wanted to do this trip! Good luck on your upcoming adventure! I’m sure you will have an amazing time!

  3. Wow. Keep reading these reviews, remembering our safari 3 years ago and this really makes me want to do it again. This one sounds perfect. Dawn, stay there, who knows? ADS is incredible, our guide was wonderful, everyone seems to love their guide! Still have 2 carvings on our mantle which I see every day and love. Incredible memories!

    1. Thanks! And it was about as perfect as one can get! I couldn’t have wished for more! Hope you do decide to go back yourself again someday!

  4. Very nice write up and fantastic photos! Raphael is awesome! he was our guide a couple of years ago and I hope that our paths cross again one day.

  5. Oh I loved reading about your most recent trip! I safaried with ADS and a family member in 2014. Bucket List item for me and it was wonderful. But since my return, I have dreamed of coming back, but wanting to go SOLO next time! Reading about the experience confirms my desire to go it alone next time. I want to bring my grandson with me as a graduation gift for him, but that is way too long for me to wait! Amazing photos! Thanks so much for sharing!

    1. Thank you so much for your comments! And all I can say is… if you ever do choose to go back and to go solo, based on MY own personal experience, you will NOT be disappointed!

  6. Ann… great photos! I was referred to your site by my nephew, Jackson. He’s a big fan of yours. My husband and I are planning a trip to Africa, probably within the next year. Would love an email from you with suggestions on seeing a wide diversity of animals. We are both wildlife biologists. Cheetahs are top of our list. However, I’m also a fan of smaller mammals such as pangolins, hyraxes, honey badgers, etc. though I know some may not be in the areas we are considering. Thanks for sharing your photos and experiences!

    1. Hey Jeannie! Thank you so much for your kind words! First off, let me say that Jackson is an incredible young man, and it does my heart good to know that I have been able to be a positive influence in his life! Concerning your interest in going to Africa, my advice to you would be to write to Dawn Anderson directly, as she would be able to give you all the information you need and more! She has planned every one of my 5 safaris, with exceptional results every time. Her e-mail is dawn@africadreamsafaris.com. She would have a wealth of information to share with you on what you might wish to do! I also believe that Jackson has my email address if you wanted to write to me directly as well, but going through Dawn would probably be the most directly informative for you in the long term! ❤️ The one thing I think I can say for certain about going to Tanzania & the Serengeti – considered your wish list, I truly believe you would not be disappointed!

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