How I Found My Hakuna Matata

Going on a safari was on my mother-in-law Joyce’s bucket list, not mine. Still, we gratefully accepted the invitation to accompany her. (We’re givers, I know.)

For a year we received e-mails from Joyce admonishing us what to do to prepare for the trip to Tanzania (not the least of which was practicing taking a shower with our mouths closed). Care packages of DEET and rain ponchos arrived at our house. I stored them in a drawer and hoped I wouldn’t forget where I’d put them many months later when it came time to pack.

The safari loomed in the future for so long. Now we have been and returned. It is over in time, but not gone.

When you don’t know what to expect in an experience, you allow room for surprises. Sure, I expected that I would enjoy seeing a place on our planet unique in its preservation of land and animals. I expected that I would ooh and aah over elephants and giraffes and lions and baboons. I did not expect, however, that the pace of our journey, slow and in the moment, would linger quite so long when I returned to “real life.” Call it the Hakuna Matata Effect; it lasts.

I’m not speaking of the red dust that still clings to my suitcase. I’m speaking of the less tangible residue, like the first Swahili words we learned as we rushed to get everyone and six suitcases into a jeep on our way to the Arusha airstrip for a propeller flight to the Serengeti. “Pole pole,” he said (poh-lay poh-lay). “Slowly, slowly.” We’ll get there. Just breathe. It takes the same amount of time to move calmly as it does to feel rushed and to rush others.

I’m speaking of the melodious sound of Swahili, embodied in this ear worm of a song taught to us by our very patient driver/guide Ellison (and which essentially translates to, “What’s up, dude? Everything’s cool; no worries in Tanzania.”):

I’m speaking of my continued longing for the sound of only birds and animals and wind, instead of the sounds that fill my habitat: houses striving for perfection with incessant remodels; hammers and power saws; lawnmowers and leaf blowers; fire engine sirens; airplanes droning; electronic devices buzzing and dinging.

Mostly, I’m speaking of the perspective gained by traveling outside of my culture, which all-too-quickly fades upon reentry. For a week I was not constantly connected to cable “news.” For a week I watched animals who knew nothing of North Korea or Russia or the United States, who cared nothing about SAT Prep classes or Bar Mitzvah caterers or glitchy WiFi at the office. I am not saying I wish I were Maasai, or that I would like my world to constrict to hunting and gathering. I am saying I needed the reminder that some of my concerns are cuckoo creations of my cultural bubble. They have no intrinsic universal value, and I can choose which to ascribe to, and which to let go. I cling to the residue of Tanzania. For a week, I was with my family, away from the push/pulls that animate our lives at home.

For a week we lived a starkly different pace — on the go at 6 am, eating breakfast and lunch in the quiet of the bush, in bed at dark, falling asleep to those sounds of nature. For a week our eyes set upon the unfamiliar beauty of flat-topped acacias and rocky outcroppings that shelter lion cubs. And for a week we spent 8-10 hours bumping around in a jeep looking for glimpses of animal action, and peeing outside when Ellison decided the threat of lion or leopard attack was low. Joyce said it was the trip of a lifetime, and that she will never do it again. Me? I’m ready to plan my return.

P.S. Bonus video: Watch an elephant multi-task, and listen to our amazed commentary. And finally, the words to “Jambo buana” song, written out for us by Ellison.  

Laura Nicole Diamond

Our Best Vacation Ever!

On the 30th of March 2017, my wife and I left the United States on a Bucket List trip to Africa. Our Guide and Guardian Angel of our Dream was Africa Dream Safaris. This proved to be one of the best decisions I have ever made. Throughout our trip, we had occasion to talk with many people on safari and compare what we had vs what they had and by far, ADS is the best.

From the moment we landed in Africa until the moment when we got back on the airplane to leave, everything was first class. The food, the lodging, the people, the handling of every detail, was nothing but the best. Our guide, Emmanuel, well…it was like it was his life’s mission to make this our best vacation ever and he did just that.

All of that said, the real reason we went to Africa was to see animals in their natural environment. This is where the real magic began. We looked at books, watched videos, looked at pictures and talked to others about their trips to Africa and thus, had established some pretty high expectations. I was told by a friend, that nothing would prepare us for what we were about to see. WOW, was she ever right.

I will never forget the look on my wife’s face as we started our approach and decent to land at the Ndutu Airstrip out in the Southern Serengeti. As we came closer to the earth, in the bush and along the runway, we could see the giraffe’s feeding on the trees, the zebras, wildebeest, and a variety of gazelles grazing along the tree line at the edge of the runway. They were all mixed together and they were all roaming FREE to go wherever they wanted. I have never seen my wife so excited and so happy.

Emmanuel, our guide, picked us up and whisked us away to see some of the most beautiful places on the earth. The Great Migration can never really be explained with words or in pictures. You just have to see it. The view that will live in my mind forever is the first time we rolled onto the edge of a great plains and there, before our eyes were animals, of all kinds and standing only a few feet apart, for as far as the eye could see in any direction you looked.

Thousands and thousands of animals; lions under the trees at the edge of the wood line, giraffes feeding on the trees along the edge of the plane, elephants towering over the zebras, wildebeest, and every kind of gazelle you can think of and all mixed together. We just put down our camera and just tried to take it all in. This was truly a work of God.

We saw all of the Big Five and so much more. While I took hundreds and hundreds of pictures, when I go back and look at them now, I realize that they show only a very small piece of the real thing we were viewing. This was our best vacation ever. Thank you ADS for making all of our dreams come true.

Rick and Jan H.
Winter Garden, Florida
Safari Dates: March 31, 2017 to April 8, 2017

A Most Memorable 40th Wedding Anniversary Celebration!

Jambo!! My wife and I celebrated 40 years of marriage in June 2016. To celebrate our milestone, we booked our ADS Safari and looked forward to this great lifetime experience! Our 10 day ADS Safari was April 2nd 2017 to April 12th 2017. We arrived in Arusha where we were met at the airport by Mathias and our wonderful Safari Guide, Russell. We spent two nights at the Mount Meru Hotel for a much needed rest and city tour of Arusha before venturing out into the Serengeti on our Safari!

We flew out on a bush plane the morning of April 4th to Central Serengeti where Russell met us at the air strip and from there we embarked on our wonderful Safari! Upon leaving the air strip, we immediately saw elephants and within the first hour Russell spotted a leopard lounging in a large Acacia tree. We observed that there were three leopards in the tree, a male, female and a cub. We watched and photographed these beautiful animals! What a great start to our Safari and each day thereafter only got better!

We toured a new area every day on our Safari and overnighted in three different locations. The first two locations were tent camps in Mbuzi Mawe and Lake Masek where we spent three nights at each camp. Our final two nights were at the Ngorongoro Serena Lodge located on the rim of the beautiful Ngorongoro Crater!

We found all of our accommodations to be very nice and comfortable and the staff at each location were superb hosts! Within hours at each camp we felt like we were part of the staff’s family and enjoyed our time getting to know each of them! Sitting on the deck overlooking Lake Masek while enjoying dinner and a drink was a most wonderful experience!

In the first two days of our Safari we had already seen four of the “Big Five” (Cape Buffalo, Elephant, Leopard and Lion) and countless other animals and birds! Russell, our ADS Guide, is a human encyclopedia that has a vast knowledge of all the animals, birds, plant life and the Maasai people and their language and culture. We were very impressed with Russell’s ability to not only spot animals and birds, but to tell us their name and their characteristics without hesitation! We learned so much from Russell in our short 10-days together.

In our first few days and throughout our Safari, we saw many different animals and beautifully colored birds. Russell has the eye of an eagle for spotting wildlife and he did a remarkable job in positioning our vehicle for the best photo opportunities of each animal, bird or scenic landscape.

Some of our memorable highlights were seeing cheetahs and leopards scouting for their next dinner, watching hundreds to thousands of wildebeests and zebras on the move together and then crossing a watering hole with a sense of urgency as if crossing the crocodile infested Mara River in the northern Serengeti! We spotted many lions on our Safari, but seeing several young lion cubs was most memorable. Watching four cubs nurse and then play together and spotting our first male lions lounging on a rock outcrop were beyond belief!

Seeing and driving into the Ngorongoro Crater was absolutely beautiful! The crater has its own environment and eco system and an abundance of wildlife in this beautiful caldera. Of course this was our opportunity to see the Black Rhino and fulfill our goal of seeing all of the “Big Five”. Russell came through with flying colors! We not only got to see the Black Rhino, but we spotted and photographed six Black Rhinos!

Our ADS Safari was a perfect vacation to celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary and to fulfill a lifetime dream! Asante-Sana to Russell (our Guide) and Dawn, our ADS Coordinator for working diligently to make our Safari an adventure never to be forgotten and one which we may never top! Our Safari far exceeded our expectations and Asante to all the people at ADS and at our tent camps and lodges for making our trip so very memorable!

Jerry and Kathy G.
Montgomery, Texas
April 2, 2017 to April 12, 2017