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!
Mount Pleasant, South Carolina
Safari Dates: February 24, 2015 to March 8, 2015
It’s certainly a challenge packing for a once in lifetime trip within the 33 pound luggage restrictions imposed by most air carriers in Africa. The topic of packing is already covered very concisely under our FAQ section and you won’t want to miss it (click on this link and then scroll down to the sub-heading ‘What to Bring’): http://www.africadreamsafaris.com/faq
That being said, with regards to clothing especially, many people still ask what’s packed in MY bag! I get the question so often that I decided to address it here. PLUS, over the years I’ve picked up some really nice hints from other guests after they’ve returned from THEIR safari experiences, and I definitely think many of these tips are worth passing on! Here it goes:
PERSONAL EXPERIENCE: So… what’s in my bag? As a rule, I keep everything very simple! And consequently, all my clothing easily fits into a small 22” suitcase. My personal clothing packing list includes:
-3 pair of safari pants (zip-off pant legs so convertible to shorts)
-4 or 5 t-shirts or tank tops and a SPF protective sun-shirt
-1 fleece pullover (jacket)
-1 pair of light hiking sneakers
-1 pair of flip flops
-1 hat, 1 belt, 1 scarf and 1 pair of sunglasses
-Plenty of socks and underwear, including a couple sports bras
-Pajamas, aka 1 comfortable t-shirt and shorts set to sleep in
-1 pair of comfy yoga pants for lounging around my room before bed while I’m writing in my journal or downloading pictures
-Almost all my stuff is khaki and neutral colors
-I use a set of packing cubes to contain my small items like socks and undies (like these by Eagle Creek).
Dawn’s Other Items:
-Money belt with cash, credit card, license, insurance card and passport
-Limited toiletries (I mainly use complimentary ones provided by lodges)
-Sunscreen, lip balm, deodorant, toothpaste/toothbrushes & insect repellent
-CASE Backpack for SLR Camera gear and Laptop (doubles as my day pack)
-Other small items such as a journal, hair brush, lip balm, medicines, etc. included in my daypack (You can find the specialized list of small items here in a separate article: “What’s in My Day Pack”: http://blog.africadreamsafaris.com/?p=4388
That’s it in a nutshell, but for those of you who want more detailed information, or wonder about the why behind my what, here is some extra advice!
CLOTHING: Given that African safari tours by their nature are very informal vacations, our advice is to simply wear casual, comfortable and loose fitting clothes. I recommend dressing in layers for maximum flexibility since mornings can be cool and afternoons can be hot (mid 80s). Formal clothing is not necessary, so plan to dress for casual comfort. Packing light is a good idea due to the 33lb weight restriction for luggage ‘per person’ on the bush flight.
COLORS: We recommend avoiding bright colored clothing during the day, and opting for more ‘neutral’ or earthy colors – think khakis, browns, greens and other muted hues. The main reason why is to help you keep a ‘low profile’ when around wild animals. The more you blend in with your natural environment, the less conspicuous or ‘spooky’ you will seem to the wild animals. We also advise not to wear dark colors especially dark blue or black as they attract insects. White is okay, but may get dirty quickly given the dusty nature of the roads. (Try to avoid camouflage; although it may sound like a good idea, other than official military personnel, it’s actually illegal in Tanzania for anyone else to wear camo. Chances are you wouldn’t have any problems as a tourist on vacation, but I always try to adhere to local laws when traveling abroad.)
TOPS: Personally I like simple t-shirts and tank tops. Short sleeves are fine, but don’t forget the sunscreen. Cotton is always great fabric for the outdoors, comfortable and breathable. But these days there are a number of high-performance fabrics on the market these days that wick moisture, dry fast and repel sun. All of these make SUPER safari gear. Many guests opt for short or long-sleeved tops made out of breathable SPF fabric designed to protect you from the sun; if you opt for the long sleeve variety, find versions that are also designed to ventilate and keep you comfortable in hot weather. You can find some great high-tech stuff at many outdoor and sports stores such as Cabela’s, Dick’s Sporting Goods, REI, Travel Smith and many, many others. Even Walmart and Target can be a good source for inexpensive work-out gear.
PANTS: Shorts or pants? During the day, this is simply a matter of personal preference. If you are unsure, a great compromise is to wear a pair of convertible ‘safari’ pants that easily convert to shorts by zipping off the pant legs. That way you can wear pants OR shorts, depending on how you feel at any given moment and without looking for a changing room! You can see a nice selection of convertible pants at many outdoor stores or any number of online outfitters, such as REI.
Personally, in the EVENING, I do always wear pants, shoes and socks (that cover ankle) when sitting around the campfire outside or when going to dinner in the evenings, since most of the areas offer open-air dining. The reason why is because I want to protect my ankles and feet from any insects that may come out in the evening.
OUTER WEAR: A jacket or fleece is perfect to take the chill off early morning. Rain gear is not necessary – if it DOES happen to rain while you are on safari, the guide will simply roll the canvas top back on the vehicle so you don’t get wet, and all the lodges and camps have an inventory of umbrellas to keep you dry in the spaces between.
SOCKS: I bring several pair of ankle socks. No need for anything fancy here, but a guest recently brought a brand to my attention called Smart Wool. I have to say, these socks are pretty great! They keep your feet feeling fresh with their high-tech fabric that provides excellent temperature and moisture regulation. (Thanks Chere!)
PAJAMAS: Lots of people ask me about what to bring as PJs. I like to keep it simple and comfortable while on safari and my sleep gear consists of one comfortable t-shirt and one pair of elastic shorts. There are always plenty of blankets on the bed to stay warm, so personally I avoid pants and long sleeved shirts since getting hot while sleeping drives me crazy. Although I do bring a pair of yoga pants to wear while sitting around the campfire or lounging around my room before bed.
UNDERWEAR: Hey, I always bring plenty of underwear. (And you may wish to plan for laundering some of your own. Although most lodges will offer laundry service for a nominal fee, most kindly ask guests to exclude laundering lady’s underwear due out of respect to the conservative culture, since most of the staff are men.) There are some great high-performance fabrics available these days that are not only comfortable to wear during the day but will also dry quickly after being laundered. Or some guests have told me they just buy a set of cheap cotton varieties at Walmart and throw them away as they go.
SPORTS BRAS: Ladies you may also consider bringing a couple sports bras to help accommodate the bumpy roads!
SHOES: Personally, I bring 1 pair of light hiking-type shoes (not boots as I think hiking boots are too heavy and frankly overkill for a safari like this). The ones I own now are made by the brand name “Salomon”, but I also like the styles made by “Merrell”. Tennis shoes can also work equally well. But the brown-colors offered in these hiking-type shoes go better with my khakis! I will also bring a pair of lightweight flip flops for casual lounging, wearing around my hotel room, etc.
LAUNDRY: Laundry services are available at most lodges, hotels and camps and many can quickly return laundered items within 24 hours. If you do have clothing laundered by the lodge staff, try to give them your clothing early in your stay to give them a fair shot at getting it cleaned and dried before you depart for your next destination. You can also bring a travel size container of laundry detergent and do a bit of your own laundry in your own room/sink, if you prefer it. I like these dissolvable sheets by Travelon: Laundry Sheets.
ACCESSORIES: I keep it pretty simple, limiting my accessories to sunglasses, a wide-brimmed hat, a belt, a couple hair ties and one scarf. I personally find a braid works well for long hair to keep the tangles out.
WATCH: I wear an inexpensive outdoorsy watch. Love the Timex Ironman. The nice indiglo feature is great when I want to check the time in the middle of the night, and I can also set the alarm for my wake-up call to make sure I’m not late for my 6am game drives!
TOILETRIES: I always bring sunscreen, insect repellent, deodorant and toothpaste. I always bring an extra toothbrush too, just in case I accidentally run tap water over my regular one (in Africa it’s important to use bottled water for brushing teeth as well as drinking). For the most part, I will just use the complimentary toiletries that are available at the majority of the lodges and camps. All venues supply soap, and most supply hair shampoo but I still bring a small bottle as a back up. Some venues also supply hair conditioner and lotion, but not all of them do so I bring my own small travel size bottle of each.
FLASHLIGHT and/or HEADLAMP: I always bring a small flashlight to keep on my nightstand while I’m sleeping. Who knows if I’ll remember where the actual light switch is, especially when waking up in a strange new place.
OTHER: Of course I have other small items I bring with me for health and comfort, including a small medical kit, cash, passport, Kleenex, lipbalm, and other ancillary items. You can find a list of most of these ancillary items in this separate blog article here: “What’s in My Day Pack”: http://blog.africadreamsafaris.com/?p=4388
CHECKED LUGGAGE: With regards to the international flight, you’ll see references in our literature that encourage guests to try and get everything into a carry-on bag. That’s great if you can do it, but if you need to check a bag, it’s not the end of the world. Just be sure to put all your important/valuable items and a change of clothing into your hand luggage, just in case your checked bag gets delayed by a day or two. (Don’t put valuable items like cameras or ipads in your checked luggage.) If you have extra luggage that you don’t need for the safari (books you read on the plane, clothing you wore in Europe, etc.) you can leave excess luggage with our staff in Arusha for safe-keeping while you are on safari rather than try to lug it with you on the small plane with the weight restrictions. If you want to try and avoid checking a bag, you can find some advice here for packing your carry-on luggage: http://blog.africadreamsafaris.com/?p=18002
PRESCRIPTION MEDICINES: The very best way to travel with prescriptions is to keep all your medicine in the original containers. That would be the conservative and safe thing to do, to avoid having any problems with airport security. If you have life-and-death types of medicine that you absolutely MUST have, this is the only way to do it.
That being said, I know many travelers organize their non-critical pills and vitamins in a Monday thru Sunday pill box. No one has ever reported having any problems or having their medications confiscated by airport security. However, to help minimize your risk, you may consider having at least a letter from your doctor or a photo-copy of your prescriptions or labels to carry along with you in case someone in airport security asks you to identify the contents. I think that would go a long way.
CAMERA AND LAPTOP: I have a great backpack by Case Logic that will accommodate both a laptop AND all my SLR camera gear, including a telephoto lens. There is enough room and pockets that it doubles nicely as a day pack for most other small items I keep with me during the day (sunglasses, sunscreen, etc.) It’s a great size and works nicely as my ‘carry on’ for the small bush plane, as well as a durable daypack to tote around with me in the safari vehicle during the day. It’s well-padded to protect sensitive gear and has lots of other great features. You can find it here: CASE LOGIC BACKPACK
CAMERA GEAR: I have a separate post dedicated to photography where I list my primary gear. You may want to check it out here! Safari Photography Equipment and Tips
ELECTRICITY, plus DO I NEED AN ELECTRIAL ADAPTER VS. CONVERTER?: Regarding electricity, yes you will have access to charge batteries, etc. All properties have electricity, although some of the camps use a combination of solar and generator power, and it’s typically best to charge your batteries during the hours when the generator is running. A very consistent time that’s good to charge batteries is during the evening and/or during dinner, as the generator is typically running during that time (approx 6pm to 10pm), although generator hours can vary slightly so best to get current details from the local staff upon arrival / check-in.
You will also need to bring an outlet adapter, which simply makes the outlet the right ‘shape’ for plugging in your North-American plug. The one you’ll need for Tanzania is the 3 prong UK adapter, with rectangular-shaped prongs. You can buy these at any number of travel stores, radio shack or simply online. I’ve included a picture for your reference here so you can easily identify the right ‘shape’.
In addition to an adapter, I will often bring a ’3-way adapter plug’ that will allow me to plug in multiple devices at one time, like this one: http://www.amazon.com/Outlet-Wall-Adapter-Shaped-Prong/dp/B0081A4GEC
Sometimes people will ask me if they need to bring an electrical converter. Usually the answer is no. Other than maybe hair appliances like a curling/flat iron, you shouldn’t need a voltage converter for common electronic devices such as camera batteries, laptops, ipads, etc., since most electronic devices are already rated for dual voltage. You may check your specific devices to be 100% sure, but I’ve never heard of any recent camera battery, tablet, cell phone or computer that wasn’t already rated dual voltage. (If it’s really important for you to have a curling iron or hairdryer during your travels, you may consider bringing a ‘travel version‘ that is rated for dual voltage or curling iron heated with butane; you can find either on Amazon.com or a number of other places online by doing a simple Google search. Note that some of the camps do limit your power usage and may not be able to support appliances like a hairdryer, especially during non-generator hours.)
Want even MORE safari prep advice? I have several other articles aimed to help, see below!
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
February 12, 2015 to February 20, 2015
Ngorongoro Crater Viewpoint
Zebra with weaver birds
Lion cubs under our vehicle
Elephant Viewing – Tarangire National Park
Elephant Viewing – Ngorongoro Crater
African Wild Dog
Lions with zebra kill
Lioness with cubs
Our group in the Serengeti
Maasai Boma Dance
Black Backed Jackal
Bat eared Fox
African Crowned Crane
Lappet Faced Vulture
Lilac Breasted Roller
Red Billed Hornbill