The Bottom Line

I am not a person who is easily impressed, but simply put, my 10 day solo ADS adventure in late April was the most amazing trip I’ve ever taken. I live in Colorado, which is an impressive place in its own right. I’ve traveled to Europe, 47 states and Canada and I’ve seen some terrific sights in my life, but this trip was amazing from the time I stepped off the plane until the time I got back on it.

I’ve never had a trip quite like this safari and I can’t wait to go back with my kids! When first considering Africa I had many of the stereotypical images that many Americans do: Africa would resemble a Lawrence of Arabia film, it would be dangerous and backward, etc. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Now when I describe Tanzania to my friends I tell them it is probably safer than Chicago and has some of the most polite people I’ve ever met. If you want to appreciate the outdoors, take every impressive situation you can think of whether it be open spaces of a Kansas prairie, the mountains of Colorado or British Columbia, the wildlife of Yellowstone or the dry lands of Utah and then add another 50% and you’ll have Africa!

If I could give you no other piece of advice for this trip I would say this: Be prepared to believe in magic. Tanzania is simply overflowing with magic if you will only take a few moments appreciate it. Your ADS guide will help you find it. All the quotes you read about being able to lose yourself while finding wonder and discovery are true. You will never be the same after taking a safari.

I’ll give you the play by play below but first, I’d like to give a big THANK YOU to both Dawn Anderson who helped me set up the trip, and my guide Raphael. Having never been to Africa before, I had a lot of questions for Dawn and she handled them deftly and professionally. Never before has travel planning been so enjoyable, and I say that as a person who traveled nearly 300 days per year at one point in my career. She obviously loves what she does and she knows Africa.

Dawn’s enthusiasm for the place is contagious. She provided some of the best customer service I have ever received. It can be intimidating traveling alone, but having armed me with plenty of information, and knowing ADS was behind me at all times, I never felt particularly worried. Similarly, my guide Raphael showed me day after day that he both loves his job and he knows it well. I’ll talk more about the guides below.

Spoiler – if you don’t believe the hype you read about the guides, or if you don’t really think there is a difference between a guide and a driver, you are in for a surprise.

My 10 day trip was designed with the primary goal of seeing cheetahs, the other big cats, elephants, rhinos and some unique geological features. I’m a rookie photographer at best and I chuckle now as I recall telling Dawn and Mike W that I’d be happy if I were simply able to get a half dozen good pictures to hang on my walls.

Armed with 4 memory cards, the most basic model of Panasonic Lumix, and a 300mm lens, I snapped nearly 5000 pictures and many, many Gb of videos on this trip. While not professional quality, I have hundreds of pictures that I’d be proud to display on my walls.

Africa will constantly present you with something magical to witness if you are just a little patient. Keep your camera ready and take a little time to learn how to work it. That said, MANY times I actually had to tell myself to put the camera down and to just witness things with my eyes rather than through a viewfinder or on an LCD screen.

My trip went like this…

Planning:
I spent 6 months in the planning phase even going so far as to do several dry runs at packing. I read and reread the ADS Safari Handbook and it payed off. My objective was to avoid checked luggage entirely and I wanted to get everything except the camera gear and meds into a single carry-on bag under the 33lb weight limit. I suspect this isn’t practical for most people but if you can do it you will be rewarded.

While a challenge, it allowed me to easily move about both in the airports and the bush. I put a priority on clean socks and underwear and I brought a new t shirt for each day thinking if the clothing closest to my skin felt good so would I. Over the T shirt I wore a long sleeve and highly breathable Sahara shirt purchased from REI. I was able to double up the days I wore the outer shirt without any issue and when it became hot I simply rolled up the sleeves. I rounded out the ensemble with a hat, light jacket (specifically for the crater) and some REI Sahara zip pants and light hiking shoes.

Arrival:
At first I was a bit skeptical that ADS might truly be there with me every step of the way as they claim, and that they could really make a safari as easy as they said. There are only so many elements you can control in a foreign country. Any doubts I had were squashed within moments of the plane landing.

I was seated in the back of the plane but it took KLM a while to get the back door open upon landing at JRO so I was one of the last of the 400 people off the aircraft and since it was already 10PM I wasn’t relishing the idea of a long drive into Arusha after lengthy visit with entry control. As I walked across the tarmac and looked at the hundreds of people in front of me preparing to go through entry control, I steeled myself for what I thought would surely be a lengthy wait.

Hakuna matata! I didn’t even make it into the building before the ADS representative Mathias greeted me with a sign and he whisked me to an alternate line. Within 10-15 minutes I was through the hub bub and on my way to Arusha. I actually felt guilty as I looked back at the other passengers trying to negotiate the turmoil. Shortly thereafter I met Joseph, my driver and he had us on our way.

Day 1 – The African Tulip:
I stayed 2 nights at the African Tulip. I’ve done the big fancy hotels in other places but for this trip I wanted something secure and sensible, something still in line with my western standards and something resembling the local flavor. The African Tulip delivered perfectly. The rooms are clean, fairly large, and while not 5 star, they are quite nice. The service I received was very good and the onsite meals were delicious, including the buffet breakfast. There is a small business lounge with computers if you need quick access to internet and the wifi in the rooms I stayed in was fine.

Day 2 – Arusha:
Arusha is an interesting city, particularly if you’ve never been to a city with millions of inhabitants. Old meets new as small shanties are getting replaced by high rises and at one point I marveled as a witnessed a Masai in traditional garb standing on the street in front of a very modern office complex while several goats scurried in front of him and he talked into his cell phone. The collision of history and cultures was startling.

Traffic is pretty crazy as they drive on the left and I don’t recall seeing a single traffic signal. I don’t recommend a rookie drive themselves here but if you choose to add a day prior to your bush departure, you can find a driver easily. While cities aren’t really my thing, I did plan for a day of sightseeing partly so I could recover from the long flight. I would highly recommend this if you sleep poorly on airplanes. Dawn also deserves a presafari shoutout here because she used her extensive relationship with people in the area to help me find some specific souvenirs and she helped me connect with a man named Saif.

Saif runs the Cultural Heritage Center which is sort of like the Getty or Guggenheim of Africa and he is a tanzanite expert. Saif and I hit if off quickly and within minutes we were chatting like old friends. He began pulling out trays of tanzanite and at one point I think we must have had 6 feet of gem filled trays spread across the counters. He helped me pick out two stones from the many thousands in front of me.

My daughters were eventually thrilled to get them and he even had an on site jeweler make a custom setting that I was able to pick up when I returned to Arusha. The CHC is an impressive building and even if you don’t consider yourself an art connoisseur, I suspect you’ll find something there you can appreciate. It is worth a visit but of course the best part of your journey awaits.

Safari Day 3 – 4:
After a day in Arusha, I departed for the bush at 0730 the next day. We flew a small two engine plane for this journey and unlike at the other airports we watched the luggage get weighed and checked right in front of us before boarding. The plane held perhaps 15 people and all the luggage needed to either fit in the belly or be carried on my lap.

I’d suggest keeping fragile items like cameras on you for this part of the trip. Don’t stick them in the bowels of the plane. The flight took about an hour. It was a little bumpy due to the weather but the pilots were very professional. My flight took off in the rain and heavy cloud cover but this only made for an even more impressive scene as we began cruising and the clouds parted.

Africa from the air is something you will never forget and it feels even more expansive than the western US and Canada. Few roads, cell towers or houses dot the landscape. Deep gorges and jagged hills are everywhere. Capturing a worthy photo through tiny airplane windows is probably impossible so try to sit back and just appreciate it for what it is.

Landing at the airstrip I quickly found myself in a mix of quite a few other people and in a sea of wide brimmed hats and khaki. Yet again it became quickly apparent to me I’d made the right choice in opting for Africa Dream Safaris. Several of the guests on my plane grabbed their luggage and wandered off to the few buildings that are there, in a quest to find their drivers. Some even milled about looking concerned as if they weren’t sure what they were supposed to be doing. This is not the way you want to start a safari! Thanks to ADS, it wasn’t how I started MY safari.

MY guide Raphael and another ADS guide who was taking a different couple on their trip met me within 30 feet of the plane. Raphael was standing in a place where I couldn’t miss him, he made it obvious who he was, and he greeted me with a warm handshake and excellent English. We loaded my bags into the vehicle, he took about 20 minutes to fill out some paperwork and we were off. Raphael showed me that he had my itinerary but then he made it a point to also ask me several questions about what I wanted to see and we quickly established a rapport.

He explained what we might expect in terms of animals, the quality of the roads, the weather, and the food. We had barely sat down in the Land Cruiser and he was already tailoring the trip to my expectations while I sipped from a cool bottle of water. I informed him I was demanding and that if the sun was up I expected to be seeing Africa. His response was to smile and tell me “get in the vehicle and let me show you Africa”.

Within minutes of leaving the airstrip we were seeing animals. Correction, within minutes of leaving the airstrip Raphael was seeing animals and for a moment I was actually a little concerned. You read in many of the reviews that the ADS guides have eagle eyes and I assure you it is true. I’m an avid outdoorsman. Still, I could barely see the animals he was already locating.

I remember wondering if I was really so out of practice or if Raphael was just that good. I began to fear I hadn’t brought nearly enough camera lens with me. There was no way I’d be able to snap pictures of those fuzzy little dots with my tiny lens. Perhaps sensing my concern Raphael offered up that I shouldn’t be worried about snapping pictures quite yet. There was more to come and he was going to get us into the action. Folks, this is where it started to get really fun. 30 minutes into our drive we were seeing birds, hippos, giraffes and elephants just a few yards from us.

I stood perched out the roof of the Land Cruiser snapping pictures, many of which put me closer to the animals than if I were in a zoo! It was too early for me to fully appreciate it but this is also where the effects of having a GUIDE vs a DRIVER would become apparent. Not only were we finding animals, Raphael was positioning the Land Cruiser wonderfully to frame potential shots. While the other drivers I would see on this trip would just stop or pull to the edge of the road, Raphael was taking note of the sky, the mountains in the background, and the trees to build my photo for me, all the while asking if I wanted to do anything differently.

It was nice to be able to enjoy the moment and not have to constantly tell him where to drive, how far to pull forward or to backup. He would make those adjustments when necessary, but he seemed to just have a sixth sense for positioning us. You can tell ADS drivers know how to take a picture in addition to their normal day job.

Drivers vs guides:
It is here that I have to offer up a quick note about the difference between drivers and guides. Take note of this because other than for the planning phase of your trip, this is perhaps the biggest area where you will come to appreciate the value per dollar of your ADS trip.

By traveling in late April I went in a somewhat low traffic season. Some days, after leaving the area immediately surrounding the camps, I never saw another vehicle. But because everyone is using a somewhat limited amount of road in places like Ngorongoro and the Seronera you will eventually see other people and you will likely talk to some of them at the lodges. It was at such times that it became obvious to me there is a startling difference between hiring a guide and hiring a driver.

When I did occasionally see another non ADS vehicle I began to note how it marched along its trek as if on some preordained and fixed path. The driver would stop, allowing for a quick picture but nothing special was occurring in terms of interaction. These vehicles had drivers and not guides. My GUIDE was framing pictures, positioning the vehicle in the manner that would allow me a really good shot, and many times I didn’t even need to say much to him to make it happen. He drove us from sun up to sun down.

Also, do you know how sometimes when you are seeing something you know little about, and how even though you might want to learn more, you aren’t even sure what questions to ask to get started? With my ADS guide that was never a problem. Raphael came armed with a dashboard covered in books about the local animal, and plant life. He must have memorized them because he could quickly find a page for everything I inquired about. Hint: When you’re driving it is rough so you can’t read. This never proved a problem however.

My GUIDE also told me all the info and the man clearly knew his stuff. Upon seeing something interesting he would even ask questions to get the ball rolling. “Do you know why that giraffe has more tufts of hair on its head than the others, or why is an African Elephant called an African elephants, or why do some birds immediately start eating a carcass while others hang back even if there is nothing to apparently stop them” he would ask?

When I didn’t know the answer, he got the discussion rolling and then we could talk for hours. This may not sound important at first but after talking to several guests at the camps, guests who were using other companies, I began to appreciate what I had here. Many of their guides were little more than shuttle drivers. Some guests were even asleep in the back of their vehicles. One guest mentioned their safari driver made it feel like Jurassic Park and while the surroundings were impressive, they were on rails and as soon as the script deviated the trip became less ideal and in some cases they felt like they were struggling to find animals.

ADS GUIDES understand how the local weather, terrain, and other events influence the wildlife. They understand that where the lions were last week is NOT necessarily where they will be during YOUR visit. You’ll pay a little more for ADS GUIDE but to get a GUIDE who knows this sort of thing is worth every penny. After all, this could be your only trip to Tanzania so make it count.

The best example I can offer of this is: You’ll find that on some mornings when you first depart camp, you’ll be leaving with a few other vehicles. During one such morning my Land Cruiser and another ADS Land Cruiser left the company of those other vehicles and when this happens you could very easily find yourself wondering what they know that you don’t. If your driver is an ADS GUIDE however, you have nothing to worry about.

The reward to me for having a GUIDE who intimately knew the area on one particular morning was that I saw 9 cheetahs in one day! That isn’t a typo. I still can’t believe it. Cheetahs were my number one target for this trip and I didn’t just see nine of them over the course of the trip, I saw nine in a single day!

One of them chased down a gazelle (something I witnessed twice on this trip), and after that spectacle we followed it up by seeing 17 lions at a single set of kopjes! All of this happened without me seeing more than 2 other non ADS vehicles all day.

When I returned to the lodge NONE of the other guests I talked to had seen so much. None of them. Yes they had all seen animals and to be honest its probably almost impossible to avoid seeing something impressive wherever you happen to be. But this sort of thing continued to happen day in and day out and I attribute it the skill of my GUIDE and just a little luck (of course your results will vary).

Seronera Sametu Camp:
Situated on a moderately treed, deep green grass savanna, it offered great sunrises, and close proximity to animals. In my mind, this is probably how I will always picture Africa. I will never forget the first sunrise I saw here. Wildebeast and gazelle surrounded the camp and occasionally walked quite close. You could hear lions roar as you lay in bed at night and there are numerous kopjes a short drive away that presented lions and great photo ops.

Simply walking outside we could watch gazelle pronk in the distance and this is always good for a laugh. The staff was wonderful and if you stay here please give Jonas (the camp manager) and the chef my regards. Not only do they run a tight ship, but the boxed breakfasts and lunches they made me were splendid. I found myself addicted to their mini quiche.

The tents were comfortable, having flush toilets and a camp shower, vanity and several tables and desks, the latter being useful to write on if you are keeping a log. The common area was as well furnished if not better than my living room and well stocked with beverages. We even received a special visit from the Serengeti Cheetah Project one evening courtesy of a special ADS sponsorship and because I am very interested in cheetahs I was particularly grateful.

For two days we traversed the Central Serengeti seeing numerous rock outcroppings that were bursting with wildlife. We saw everything from zebra, wildebeast, and a wide variety of birds to elephants, hippos, and dozens of big cats on the open plains.

Safari Day 5 -7:
After visiting the Seronera we then traveled to the eastern and southern Serengeti to visit the Simba and Gol Kopjes, Naabi Hill, and the Lake Masek and Ndutu Woodlands and southern plains.

We left at dawn each day, packing a boxed breakfast and lunch and we traveled around the lakes and woodlands seeing all manner of birds, gazelle, zebra, lions, cheetah, ostriches, elephants and giraffes. In many cases several of the predators had fresh kills, and many of the animal groups had newborns as well. This always makes for good photography.

While I didn’t go specifically to watch birds, there were many opportunities to conduct some birdwatching here as eagles, flamingos and numerous other varieties of birds abounded. Each day we would drive out to the plains to look for cheetah or lions and after getting our fill we would then head back into the woods to see more lions and their prey.

Elephants and giraffes were plentiful in the wooded areas and one evening we even managed to come across a rare black banded aardwolf on the prowl. It wasn’t quite dark and apparently this is uncommon enough that even the guide was quite excited by the sighting so we shared the discovery via radio with another ADS guide in the area. The terrain made for some terrific sunsets and as we returned to the lodge at dusk we were presented with several opportunities to capture photos of evening light streaming through the trees.

Lake Masek Tented Lodge:
This facility was a bit less rustic than the other tented camps I stayed in and Lake Masek is basically a tented room on stilts. It seems like more tours came through this camp so we saw more people but it never felt crowded. It has a nice view of the lake and in this area you’ll be able to go off road so take the time to explore.

The showers were more like what you’d have at home although they were outdoor showers (with very high walls). Each room has its own shower, flush toilet, and several sinks, chairs and desks. My tent had a nice enclosed sitting area just off the main bedroom and I thoroughly used it. It held a small table, easy chairs and a lamp and offered great views of the lake and the starry nights.

I had to go to a common area at the main lodge to charge batteries however because much if not all of the camp power is solar/generator based. It is a minor inconvenience but one you should prepare for in case your camera batteries get low. Alternatively, you can purchase a simple power bank and leave it to charge while you are out on the road. I never worried that anything I left charging would disappear. Also, while not particularly important, if you get on the perimeter of the camp, the wifi is weak so you might not be able to tag up with people as easily here unless you return to the main lodge. Wifi was low on my list of needs for this trip however.

Safari Day 8 – 9: Before heading to Ngorongoro Crater we headed east to Lemuta Hill, Nasera Rock, the Matiti Plains and Shifting Sands. Nasera Rock was beautiful due to recent rain and the plains were green as far as you could see. The journey there gave us an opportunity to view many animals but the area around Nasera Rock is fairly remote and with the exception of the Masai that inhabit the area we didn’t see any other people and the animals in this immediate area were also a bit sparse.

I would still recommend a quick stop if you like open spaces and happen to be in the area when it isn’t the dry season. It is very picturesque. After a hiking adventure around the rock we departed for Oldupai Gorge. The Gorge didn’t offer much in the way of animal viewing and it resembles western Colorado in many ways but as one of the sites for some of the oldest human ancestors yet discovered, it was a very interesting history lesson and the resident guide gave a very informative tour.

Before setting off for Ngorongoro Crater I wanted to take a detour. You see, while taking the time to talk to me about specific interests during our itinerary building session, Dawn had noted I had an interest in geology. You won’t get that level of service from AAA! She suggested I might consider stopping by a place called the Shifting Sands since it was only a moderate detour from some of my other destinations on the way to the crater.

While it is remote and fairly devoid of wildlife, if you have an interest in geology or want to simply see something that you won’t find anywhere else on earth then it is worth a visit. The moving sand dune here is a result of ash deposits from the somewhat active volcano Ol Doinyo Lengai – one of the holiest places in the Masai culture.

While at first appearing similar to the sand you’d see on a black beach in Iceland or Hawaii, it is actually a very different and unique material. Ol Doinyo Lengai is the only volcano on the planet known to erupt this material. The dune migrates about 50 feet each year but holds its consistency due to the affinity of the sand grains for each other. It is basically a hill consisting of billions of tiny magnets.

I wanted to leave a special section in this writeup for the Ngorongoro Crater which is undoubtedly one of the crown jewels of the world. Geologically it is fascinating. Photogenically it was lush, green, and teeming with animals during my visit. We saw grey crowned cranes, cape buffalo, warthogs, lions, and several HUGE elephants. There were hippos walking in the grass and cruising the waterways and jackals abounded. Zebras and wildebeasts were everywhere. Several of my fondest trip memories are of this place.

As we entered Ngorongoro Crater Raphael explained to me that while we’d seen all of the big 5 except the rhino, I needed to prepare for the idea that we might not get as close to a rhino as we had most of the other animals if we even saw one at all. I think he mentioned we had about an 80% chance of seeing a rhino. He cautioned me that many times, while you will see one, it might be a half mile away because you can’t leave the roads in the crater. He might have been trying to dial back my expectations but less than two hours later we crossed paths with not one but TWO rhinos and we watched them for several hours as they came within less than 200m of us.

I have a picture of not one but two rhinos within a single frame of the camera! Yes it is a bit blurry but I’m convinced they are both happily smiling at us while they are munching on their grass lunch. While it rained on the walls of the crater for much of the day, the skies above us were clear and the floor was lush and green resulting in numerous rainbows serving as the backdrop for the animals. As the sun set, we headed off to Lions Paw Camp.

Ngorongoro Lion’s Paw Camp:

Similar to Sametu camp, Lions Paw offered terrific views of the crater from a hillside overlooking the floor. It is so close to the bottom of the crater that we were able to quickly get right back in the middle of the wildlife the next morning. Like the other camps, the food was terrific and the staff was wonderful. The best meal I had on my trip was at this camp and considering how pleased I was with the food at the other camps I feel this is really saying something.

That evening we all sat around the fire for the evening watching “bush TV” and enjoying ourselves. It does get colder here at night and I think it actually dropped into the 40s during my stay so when you go it would be good to have a light jacket. The next day we traveled the crater some more before eventually departing for Lake Manyara and eventually returning to Arusha.

Some of my fondest memories:

– The first day of the trip I marveled at how well the ADS guides could spot animals. With a little help and training, by the end of the trip I too was looking at tracks and watching bushes in the distance for the telltale signs of movement that potentially came from a lion or another animal. I’ll never be a pro ADS driver but it was fun to watch my skills improve.

-Watching two Cape Buffalo spar at Ngorongoro Crater. It was fast but it was powerful. I wouldn’t want to make them angry. Simply having them stare you down from the middle of the road as you wait to drive past them is pretty intimidating.

– I was able to watching cheetah chase down gazelle several times. I don’t care how many times you watch this on BBC or how many times you hear Sir David Attenborough narrate it, you can’t fully appreciate it until you see it in real life. Watching a hungry animal chase a desperate animal at 60mph, over ground so rough you can’t drive on it at 20mph will take your breath away. It is almost like watching a movie on fast forward it happens so fast. Don’t blink!

If you are interested in cheetah and if the guide suggests you might have an opportunity to see this event but you might have to wait or stalk them for a couple hours, I’d encourage you to take the opportunity. The grand finale will probably last less than a minute but its worth every second. Even if you don’t see the sprint, you might still get a cheetah to jump on your car and you could find yourself face to face a mere couple of feet separating the two of you.

– Listening to a herd of elephants walk through the grass while raising their trunks to sniff the air, shuffling to keep their babies in the center of the group, and making the low rumbling noises they do to talk to each other will melt you. It might be one of the most powerful audio experiences I’ve ever heard. I like to replay this video on my computer periodically.

– Lions roaring at night will remind you just how small and humble you are in the grand scheme of things, and you’ll likely experience this many times in the tent camps so if possible I’d encourage you to spend at least one night in a tent camp. Watching lion cubs jump from rock to rock on the kopjes at sunrise and sunset will add years to your life and you won’t be able to keep yourself from smiling.

-Sunrises and sunsets in Africa are magical. Make it a point to experience them. If possible, frame a few with some acacia trees and rock outcroppings and capture them in your mind if you can’t also get them with a camera. Afterwards, you won’t be able to find the words to do justice in describing them. Even if you do get pictures to hang on your walls, your friends will still ask you if you Photoshopped them because they don’t look real.

– One final moment (I promise) that I find I am constantly remembering to remind myself of is the scope of it all. One morning on the Serengeti we stopped for a picnic breakfast. The sun was rising and a herd of wildebeasts, zebras, ostriches and other animals were running across our field of view perhaps 100m away. The grunts of the animals and the sound of hoofbeats permeated the area and could be easily heard thundering even over the slight breeze.

Animals stretched over the hills to both horizons, chasing some unseen sprigs of grass and tendrils of rain in the distance that my feeble human nose could not detect. We ate our breakfast on the hood of the Land Cruiser, laughed, and pondered life for probably close to an hour while the whole rabble passed us, never slowing to pay us any heed. After an hour I noted to Raphael how even after just sitting there for so long, the line of animals still stretched from horizon to horizon. I commented how impressed I was with the whole thing and in particular, the sheer scale of it all.

Thousands of animals had just trotted past us with no end in sight. I noted it was perhaps what I envisioned the great herds of bison to be like in North America many years ago except that this was right in front of me and I asked him if he ever got tired of witnessing it since it was just another day at the office for him. Raphael took a moment to respond, still watching the passing train of animals and then he assured me that it never got old. Even he was a little transfixed at the event and even the locals appreciate it for the wonder that it is it seems.

Some Closing Tips:

-Stay the extra day in Arusha upon your arrival. You may not notice it at first but you’ll appreciate the recuperation time by your 6th day on safari.

– Don’t’ be afraid to shop around and compare with other companies in your efforts to plan and get smart. Why would I say this in an ADS testimonial? Because after you look at those other companies I’m still all but certain you’re going to book through ADS anyway. You might as well add Dawn to your speed dial list. The service and value ADS is going to provide you is just that good. While on my trip I talked to several people using other companies and while they were having a good time, they usually had at least a few minor complaints.

To this day I do not have a single regret about choosing ADS and I will readily admit I am a challenging customer. ADS isn’t the biggest, they weren’t the cheapest, and they perhaps aren’t the most famous but I’m convinced they are the best value. I looked at several companies and initially thought I might try to rough it a bit more than what ADS does, mainly to save some money. I’m glad I didn’t rough it or do something drastic to save a few dollars. There is far too much to see in Africa and having someone who knows where to go is worth every penny.

– Take a lot of pictures and video. BUT put the camera down occasionally and just appreciate what is in front of you without looking through a viewfinder or at and LCD

– Learn a bit of the language. Tanzanians are conservative and very, very polite so they will appreciate the gesture. I went armed with a little bit of Swahili (maybe 10 phrases). Several times, I began an introduction with some of the local slang only to have it result in smiles as the person I was talking to quickly started talking to me in their native tongue only to then realize I knew much less Swahili than they first thought. You might think at first this would be awkward but I assure you, just like with most inhabitants of other countries they appreciate the gesture. The effort you put in to at least trying will be rewarded with better service and perhaps even a few interesting tips no one else is getting.

– Go to bed early if you have to. Plan to leave camp by sunrise and plan to stay out most of the time until the sun sets. Have a nice lunch at a lodge occasionally but remember that often, just after sunrise or just before sunset is when the most powerful magic shows itself. When you get a shot of early morning lighting bouncing off the eyes of a lion as it stares at you, you’ll have something to cherish.

– Above all, be prepared to believe in magic and superlatives. Tanzania is simply overflowing with magic. All the quotes you read about being able to get lost, finding wonder and discovery are true. You will never be the same after taking this trip.

I can’t say enough good things about my safari and I’ve even offered to ADS that if they have clients who want to speak/email an actual customer with questions then I’m willing to make myself available. Think of it as a non biased opinion since I’m not compensated by them. I was just that impressed with my trip. I would return to Tanzania in a heartbeat.

Enjoy your safari!

Eli E.
Peyton, Colorado
Safari Dates: April 29, 2017 to May 6, 6017

Some additional notes…

The food:
In general the food at every location I visited was quite delicious and I felt like it was a good value. I’d even venture to say I believe I ate healthier than how I do at home. Most of the sit down meals started with a soup of the day, followed by a fresh salad and then a main course. I grew to love those soups. Now that I am home I MISS those soups.

In general I opted for a boxed lunch and breakfast, wanting to maximize my time outdoors. We only came back to the lodge for lunch once but it too was quite good.

For the boxed meals you can gather at the kitchen early in the morning. The selection is very good and you can usually find yogurt cups, numerous varieties of fruit, some form of bacon, ham, and turkey and several types of breads. Typically pankcakes, waffles and croissants were also available as well as some sort of chocolate bar for a light treat. Juices and water were available to drink. I never went hungry and I never found myself with a food I couldn’t eat.

Bugs:
I received a grand total of 3 bug bites. While I wouldn’t recommend it, I did not once apply any kind of bug repellent although I did pack 2 bottles of Sawyer Picaridin bug repellent. I went with this because it came in a pump vs an aerosol so I got more in a bottle, and because the 3oz size of each bottle passed easily through TSA screening. It works well at home and probably works well in Africa although I didn’t need it. Part of my luck I attribute to the season and part of it I attribute to my clothing.

5 Comments Leave a Comment

  1. Great review! We are leaving on the 27th of August for our trip, your review only enhances our anticipation!! Thank you!

  2. What an excellent and interestingly thorough review of your trip! I have been to Tanzania 5 times with ADS over the past 10 years (Dawn planned every one) and so can attest to the truth behind pretty much everything you say.

    Coincidentally I was there just this last March/April on a solo safari of my own, and I too had the amazing Raphael for a guide!

    It is true when one says that there is no place quite like Africa. It truly holds a place all its own! Thanks again for sharing your experience!

  3. What a great review you wrote. Thank you for sharing your trip. We went with ADS about five years ago and you are so right about it being a magical experience. My dream is that we get to return one day. Love your pictures too.
    Susan
    Santa Barbara, CA

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