One Very Happy Camper
Sharon, I have started this letter about six times and have never finished and I finally figured out why. My vocabulary is not big enough, nor does it contain enough adverbs and adjectives to describe the trip you planned for Angie, Sue and me. I will try again.
First, when you received my first email inquiring into ADS and what it had to offer, you were the first to send a reply back to me. That reply was within the hour after I hit the “SEND” button! In your email you not only replied but you send me information about what you offered and the idea that we could come up with a custom safari that wouldn’t put us in the poorhouse. You gave me suggestions and then you asked questions about what I was thinking about.
Over several months we wrote back and forth, added 2 people, lost one then finally settled for the 3 of us. You were so willing to go with the flow of endless questions and changes, etc. You are such a great person to work with! (This is the first place that words fail to describe how good you are at what you do!)
After waiting an eternity for our departure date to arrive we finally left Anchorage, AK for Seattle, WA and then on to Amsterdam, then on to Arusha, Tanzania. And just to make life harder for you we just had to schedule a side trip to the village of Geita on the west side of the country. The hotel in Arusha had a room waiting for us when we returned and Mathias met us each time with a smile, a hot washcloth and a welcome that made us feel at home.
Then there was the flight to the Serengeti! The flight was great, the views of the landscapes, seeing the Masai bomas from the air were amazing. We landed at the airport in the Serengeti and had to wait a short time for our driver. Apparently the Serengeti is as fickled as the weather in Alaska! Wilford was late because of a washout on a levee that was rather spectacular. We didn’t mind, Sue found some Pringles to eat (and share) and I took lots of photos of the different birds and their nests. It was fun, the day was beautiful and life was good.
When our gallant guide arrived we headed for the Serengeti and an unknown world of wonders! Right off the bat we saw giraffes, the same group I saw from the air while we landed! We then saw hippos, lots and lots of hippos in the river. Then we saw the leopard! It was in a tree, just hanging around while its cub was taking a nap in the fork of the tree. We were mesmerized; we didn’t want to move and head for the Seronera Sametu Camp and the “roughing it in tents” that awaited our arrival. What a way to start our adventure!
In Alaska we are no strangers to tents, big ones, medium ones and small ones. But the tents at both Seronera Sametu and Naabi Hills were 5 star plus tents. The beds were comfy; the bathrooms were a wonderful, and a much appreciated surprise. I know you told me that the accommodations were going to be wonderful but your words were not nearly powerful enough to tell me what to really expect. WOW! I could live in one of your tents (just not in Alaska!)
Wilford, what can I say about a man who has studied hard, learned the information and embraced the knowledge with a willingness to share the information with those around him. Then there are his eyes! He found animals for us that were hidden so well that we would have missed them. Our first lions were found because he saw some ears almost a mile away. The caracal’s (3) would have been a wish not some really cool photos! Wilford found all kinds of rare animals and birds for us. He also found lots of lions (over 150), leopards with cubs and solitary (2), and cheetahs (I can’t remember how many!), one on the hunt and was successful and I caught it on camera!
When we arrived at Naabi Hills for our second “Roughing it on the Serengeti” campsite we were in awe of the sight that met us. The wildebeest were there by the hundreds of thousands! They were grazing, playing, walking and running everywhere. Horizon to horizon there were animals. Mixed in with the wildebeest were what I called Incidental Travelers, that is the zebras, water buffalo, giraffes, elephants, Thompson and Grants gazelles, ostriches, hyenas, lots and lots of them. It was easy to see why they say that there are millions of animals that partake in the Great Migration!
What are the best memories of amazing moments, now that’s a tough one? How do you choose one or two moments out of a 10 day trip to one of the most beautiful places on earth? For me personally I will never forget the second night at Naabi Hills. We had been out on the Plains all day, seeing all things wonderful and exotic. Hyenas were in large numbers throughout the day. We saw them sleeping, eating, running and soaking in the cool water of the pools near the numerous kopjes. I was fascinated to learn that they were clean animals, not smelly like our grizzly bears in Alaska.
We had been told each morning how many and what kind of animals came to visit us (the campsite) after the sun went down and the lights were turned off. Elephants, I think a lion or two and hyenas. The song of the hyenas were very distinct, the whup-whup song that is now burned into my brain!
I was in bed in a TENT; sound asleep when the songs started. The group had at least 6-10 animals in camp wandering around between the tent Angie and I stayed in and the next one over where Sue was sleeping. What woke me up was one animal that came closer to the tent and got tangled in the rope that was holding the tarp on the top of the tent in place. It walked into the rope, starting fighting to get away from it, growled, snarled and literally fell against my bed on the outside of the tent! I woke up with such a start that I was close to panic! The growling and yelping was by my head with a thin quarter of an inch of tent wall between us! The animal hit the tent side (and my bedside) 2-3 times before it left while making lots of whupping noises!
The most incredible thing is that the same scenario played out 3 TIMES, probably with 3 different animals! Just as the first animal was leaving the area by my bedside Angie started snoring and I was terrified that she would cause the animal to come back and try to get into tent to see where the noise was coming from. I threw a pillow at her and scared her, too.
The next morning I took photos of the 5 ropes that were pulled out of the ground. I have great respect for these animals and will NEVER UNDERESTIMATE them again! That was my moment. Angie will have to share her memories with you and Sue has already shared her thoughts.
As we moved on to the other venues in the itinerary the trip just got better and better. Spending time in the Ngorongoro Crater was icing on the cake. It was the culmination of a trip of a lifetime that will rate at the top of my BEST THINGS I HAVE EVER DONE LIST!
Thank you Sharon! Thank you for everything; for answering my initial inquiry as rapidly as you did to arranging all the details that made this trip so easy and comfortable. And thank you for helping to arrange the logistics for the side trip to the orphanage to Geita in western Tanzania! Talk about one VERY HAPPY CAMPER! You and ADS are truly THE VERY BEST!!!
Safari Dates: April 2, 2013 to April 10, 2013