Congratulations to ADS safari specialist Sharon Lyon who was recently honored in San Diego, California with the Ambassador Of The Year Award by the Alliance for African Assistance. Sharon was recognized for her significant contributions and dedication over the last 10 years in assisting refugees from East Africa in their resettlement process.
Because of contributions from Sharon and many others, more then 8,000 refugees to date have been successfully resettled in America. Refugee assistance includes preparing host families, securing safe and affordable housing, help with rent and transportation, health screenings, enrolling children in school, English language classes and translation services, and job assistance and training.
Here is an excerpt from Sharon’s speech…
“In 2004 I started a journey and had no idea where it would take me. We started in Kakuma, a refugee camp on the Kenya/Sudan border. 100,000 refugees lived here in Kakuma, waiting for the new life promised by the protection of the United Nations Refugee Status, given them when they fled their countries from genocide and certain death. Rita is only one child but Rita represents all the children and their families that have called Kakuma home for way too long.
Six year after I met Rita, Rita and her family have finally been allowed to start their new life in America. Her baby rock has been replaced with a baby doll. Her despair with hope, her torn rags with proper clothes, her dirt floor with tile, an empty bowl now with food. A smile shows a bright future full of hope. It was indeed a day of celebration for me as my heart wanted to dance and celebrate for the few refugees who, like her, have now been resettled and starting a life full of hope and promises of a certain future in America.”
Our group traveled from the U.S. to Amsterdam where we explored that city for two days and nights, and then flew on to Africa. We arrived at the Arusha airport in the early evening where the ADS staff met us and escorted us through the necessary processing into the country. They then drove us to the Mt. Meru resort hotel for our first night’s stay in Arusha, Tanzania. The hotel was luxurious and the staff upbeat, polite and accommodating in every way.
Our group of eight spent an extra day at the hotel/resort to refresh after the long trip. We began our safari adventure with a smooth bush flight to the North Serengeti. The flight gave us an aerial view of the African mountains, volcano craters, and the plains. The very first day of our adventure was unbelievable. My words will not do justice to the thrills and excitement we all felt repeatedly as we observed Africa’s wild life in the beautiful and natural Serengeti.
Our ADS driver guides, Ellison and Emmanuel, knew exactly where to take us to see the most animals in the least amount of time. They told us we’d need patience for good observations, but we didn’t have to wait long to see a Mara River crossing by a significantly large herd of zebras and wildebeests. We also saw some crocodiles in and out of the water, but no attacks during the crossing. What a thrill to see this magnificent event in its entirety so early in our itinerary.
On this first day we also saw lions, elephants, giraffes, hippos and cape buffalos. All of these sightings were up close and personal, made possible by our experienced and talented ADS driver guides. Each day brought new and different sightings. We observed the plains covered for miles with the migrating animals, and there were so many we almost came to think seeing huge herds of wildebeests and zebras to be routine.
Our accommodations at the Serengeti Bushtops camp on our first night in the bush were surprisingly first class. Both the facilities and the food were excellent. Plenty of hot water and electricity were available 24 hours in all of our camps. The staff was uniformly positive and service oriented. At Bushtops, I began my learning of a few Swahili phrases with Richard, a very outgoing and friendly member of the camp staff.
Awaking from a restful night in our tent, we discovered a few zebra wandering right outside. After a delicious full breakfast, our day in the wild commenced early and we spent all day viewing more and more of Africa’s wild creatures. One pride of lionesses numbered at least fifteen resting animals, and soon we saw two male lions atop the kopjes (a stony outcrop). We also spied a male leopard perched high on the kopjes. What a magnificent creature.
The next days were filled with sightings of more lions, huge numbers of giraffes (we saw a neck fight) large and small herds of elephants both on the plains and in the forests where the damage to trees was significant. Hippos were abundant in many pools and rivers and the antelope, gazelles, hartebeests, warthogs, hyenas and jackals became more abundant as we explored further into the plains. We even saw a black and white Colobus monkey running in a small forest, a very rare sight in this part of the Serengeti.
Our guides pointed out numerous birds such as vultures, storks, secretary birds, hawks and eagles. We even saw a huge owl. We saw ostriches, one that was performing a mating dance for a female, as well as flamingoes and many others I won’t name. And, we were able to drive very close to two resting cheetahs. As we watched, they ambled down through the brush to the edge of an open area filled with gazelles and antelope. They didn’t immediately give chase, but we knew they would sometime soon.
I’ve talked lots about our good viewing fortune, but I’ve reserved until now the one sighting in the Serengeti that all in our group treasures. As we drove past another kopjes, we spotted a black rhino meandering through the tall grass, only a short distance from our vehicle. We were able to see and photo this endangered creature from within 100 feet and closer as we followed her through the area. Many visitors don’t benefit from this sighting in the Serengeti. Ellison said this was only his second sighting of a rhino in the area after eight years as a driver guide. He told us there still are no more than 20 living in the area. What a thrill!!
During our eight days in the wild, we never ceased to marvel at the numbers and variety of animals that we observed. We spent two nights at the Migration Camp, also a very nice camp, and two nights at the more primitive Seonara Sametu Camp, still a wonderful camp. It was a thrilling experience to hear the animals visit our camps during the night. Our last bush night at the Lion’s paw camp was the most primitive, though the staff was always available to respond to our tiniest need and the experience was wonderfully wild, listening to hyenas howl and lions huff just outside.
Our final days were spent visiting Olduvai Gorge (site of the Louis and Mary Leakey discoveries of early humans) and the Ngorongoro Crater. In this conservation area, we saw more of the animals we’d been observing, though in the crater their behavior is less frantic than in the Serengeti. Here we observed lions, especially thrilled by two large males in open grass.
More elephants and giraffes were seen in the forest, flamingos and hippos in the salt lakes and the fresh water ponds, monkeys and multitudes of baboons, lions, and many more. And then again, we were fortunate to spot more black rhinos (they are more easily sighted in this contained ecosystem). We saw a mother and young rhino very close to our vehicle, and several sightings a bit further away in other locations in the crater.
Our last day included a stop and tour at the Foundation For African Medicine and Education (FAME) facilities in Karatu. This is a worthwhile charity providing medical care and education for Tanzanians. Our last night on Safari was at the luxurious Ngorongoro Manor lodge where the staff and facilities are all very first class.
We also visited Lake Manyara on our way back to Arusha and saw velvet and blue monkeys, waterbuck, numerous birds and fowl, baboons, hippos and flamingoes. Our last day in Africa was spent relaxing at the Mt. Meru resort before departing for Arusha and our flight back to the U.S. On the drive, our driver guide told us we were among the luckiest guests he has served, having seen all that we did, and now there is a clear sighting of Mt. Kilimanjaro fully to the peak. We stopped to take photos, of course, and then, back to the airport and the hardest part of the trip being…our long, long, return flight home.
But this trip, for any who ask, is the event of a lifetime. In every single aspect this is an adventure we are blessed and thankful to have made.
Linda and Ted S.
Safari Dates: September 17, 2014 to September 27, 2014
A first of its kind elevated viewing boardwalk overlooking hippos and flamingos in Lake Manyara National Park has just been launched. The boardwalk was constructed by the Tanzania National Parks Association and is expected to improve the safari experience in Lake Manyara National Park by providing tourists with a unique wildlife viewing experience.
The two elevated walkways, which have just been inaugurated by Tanzania’s Minister of Tourism, stretch at lengths exceeding 150 meters and are furnished with washrooms. One of the walkways has been built in an area that is a popular hippo view point and the other at a vantage point to watch flamingos and other birdlife.
At the base of the Great Rift Valley, Lake Manyara National Parkis most famous for its tree-climbing lions, elephants, hippos and three species of primates. The park boasts one of the highest concentrations of elephants in Africa and is home to the largest baboon troops ever documented. More than 400 species of birds have been recorded here. With cliffs towering over 2,000 feet above the lake, it is here that the Great Rift is most dramatic.