Our Africa Dream Safari began with our arrival along with our friends Kris and Nara at Kilimanjaro Airport the evening of May 11th. After the long flight the nights rest in Arusha was welcome. The following morning our bush plane pilot, Liz, pointed out Mount Kilimanjaro, Maasai communities, migrating Wildebeests and other sights below as we flew to the western Serengeti. During our final approach to the grass airstrip we saw Hippos, a pride of Lions sleeping in the grass, Giraffe, Wildebeest, Baboons and Monkeys!
Our guide Anglebert greeted the four of us, transferred our luggage to the Land Cruiser, and within the first two hours we saw Impala, Eland, Giraffes, Crocodiles, Hippos, Monitor Lizard, Cape Buffalo, Weaver Birds, and Elephants.
During our picnic a group of giraffes strolled by, eyeing our group carefully. While we were taking photos, he was constantly working to position us for the best light, photo composition and opportunities, and got us close to any action. We learned the ins and outs of navigating within the Land Cruiser for viewing and photography, and became pretty efficient within a short time.
We arrived in late afternoon at Mbalageti Tented Lodge, located on a high hill with a panoramic view of the Serengeti. The accommodations there and at Mbuzi Mawe Tented Lodge were delightful. Our second night a lion was roaring just outside our room, and there were the sounds of Hyenas, Zebra, Baboons, and Elephants in the distance.
The Lions had made a Wildebeest kill on the perimeter of the camp, and the following morning we had our first close up encounters with Lionesses and their cubs. At Mbuzi Mawe a Cape Buffalo bedded down nightly in a sheltered pocket under a tree beside a large boulder, 40 yards from our front portal. When staying at the tented lodges we were escorted by young men with spears and flashlights whenever moving about camp when it was dark.
All of the food at the lodges was excellent, the staff members were happy, friendly, and we had fun visiting with them at our various stops. We left each morning just before daylight, took along box breakfasts and lunches, which were refreshing and filling. Our dining rooms were in the shade of trees in the Serengeti with animals all around us. A few times we elected to return to the lodge during the heat of the day for late lunch and a rest, and to avoid some of the nuisance of the Tse Tse flies while they were most active.
We watched as two Cheetahs ran down a Wildebeest calf, but they were forced away when the mother turned and charged them to save her baby; the calf escaped unscathed — got some nice photos of the action. Early one morning a large pride of lions moved across the long grass to a comfortable resting spot on a large Kopje to sleep for the day, after a successful night’s hunt and gorging on Wildebeest. Following them on their trek we parked near the Kopje to watch them.
A highlight among highlights was seeing and hearing the migration. It was a magnificent sight, with a sea of animals churning all around us. Anglebert positioned us at the base of a mountain, where we were surrounded by thousands of Wildebeest and Zebra. While we were there, two lionesses attacked one of the lines of animals on the flank of the mountain, and we could see the panicked animals fleeing; the lions were not successful in taking their prey.
We spent time watching animals with anticipation of action to come. This was true for leopards, and we were fortunate to see a number of these beautiful, elusive animals, including one taking its Wildebeest kill up into a yellow bark acacia tree. Anglebert would move our vehicle to get the best camera angles and light as the sun changed positions. He was amazing!
At the beginning of the day he asked us what our goal was for the day. Whatever we mentioned, we ended up seeing that day. He has a thorough knowledge of animal behavior, ecology, natural history, and is a proud representative of Tanzania and of ADS. Everywhere our travels took us we saw animal herds spread across the Serengeti.
We stopped by Oldupai Gorge (so named for the Oldupai plant that grows there) on the way from Serengeti to Ngorongoro Conservation Area, and had a wonderful tour of the displays and guided tour of the Gorge itself, including the exact site where Australopithecus was found by Mary Leaky.
Ngorongoro Crater was breathtaking. There we saw Rhinos (4 of them), solitary male Elephants, battling male Wildebeest in the rut, Warthogs, Zebra, swarms of birds nesting together in roadside thorn trees, Hippos, Cape Buffalo, Zebras, Lions, Ostriches, Grant’s and Thompson’s Gazelle, and many other animals; we had seen most of these in the Serengeti, with the exception of the Rhinos.
Our goal for the day there was to see the Rhino, and Anglebert had us near one within the first hour in the crater. We were the second vehicle into the crater that day in the morning mist, and the next to last vehicle out that evening. Our finale was watching a Rhino from distance of about 100 yards.
We are beginners at photography, but one can not help but capture some amazing images in these beautiful places. The lodging was wonderful with spectacular scenery. Every aspect of our trip was amazing, and far exceeded any of our expectations!!! Everyone made us feel welcome and at home.
Many have tried to describe Africa and the Serengeti and the Ngorongoro Highlands. We think Africa itself spoke to us through its incredible beauty, diversity of life, sounds like the low rumbling growl of the Lion, the calls of the Wildebeest, enchanting bird songs, varied ecosystems, its vastness and mesmerizing sunrises and sunsets. It may very well be the heart of the earth.
Asante sana to ADS, Dawn Anderson (who prepared us comprehensively for this trip; a special thanks for all of the advance photography advice), the ADS support staff, and to Anglebert (thanks for the beanbags and photography coaching and unmeasurable patience with all of our questions). This was the most spectacular trip we have ever taken!
We hope to return “home” to Tanzania again someday.
Patsy and Ed B.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Safari Dates: May 11, 2016 to May 20, 2016
Its only a few days after our return home, and we are still trying to fully absorb our experience with ADS. We were amazed by so many things that it is really hard to be able to write down how well things went, thanks to ADS.
Arriving in Tanzania isn’t all that complicated but when you’ve traveled almost 24 straight hours, with 6 people, it can feel that way. It was great to see Mathias, as soon as we came into the building, at the Arusha airport.
He efficiently got our visas, and helped us through the process. As we came out of the airport, his partner Ali took our bags, got us to the Mt. Meru hotel and checked into the hotel very quickly.
The next day, when we landed at the Grumeti airstrip, we were met by our Guide, Francis. We didn’t know then what a jewel Francis is, but over the next few days as we got to know him, we found that he is someone so well educated, knowledgeable and personable that he should teach others how to be a driver / guide.
We started our safari in the area near the Grumeti river & airstrip. After a couple days there, we moved on to the Serengeti. After a couple days there we finished the safari in the Ngorogoro Crater.
This trip was really the last time that we would likely have our entire family together. My oldest son will be starting college in the fall, and then our other three kids will likely follow him out into the world very quickly. So, when each day of the safari was filled with wonder after wonder, it made it very special.
One evening, still in the Grumeti area, we came upon a Tower of Giraffe. Francis was able to get us very close, but he did it in a way that allow for the best photography light. We saw a major pack of hyena living not very far from the Mbalageti Tented Lodge. At one point, a hyena decided to run down the middle of the road so we slowly went behind him until he became tired enough to get off the road.
When we arrived in the Serengeti, the first thing we saw was a pride of lions eating a kill that they had just made.
A little later we went right into the middle of a major wave of the Great Migration. Almost as far as you could see, in every direction, were Wildebeests and Zebra. We saw a huge leopard that day. He was sleeping up in a tree, just waiting for a meal to come by, and then experienced a family of more than 30 elephants crossing a road just in front of us.
I’ve never been much of bird watcher, but Francis was able to see every type of bird you could name, from far away. (Yes, he’s as much of an eagle eye as all the other guides, but I would wager that his are the best.)
Francis made the birds interesting in a way that I had never considered before. By telling us about their behaviors we were able to understand them far better than we had before. Something as simple as a flock of cranes circling about 7 meters over our heads, he explained helps to keep them cool in the heat of the day.
At the crater, we started early in the morning to make sure we had the best chance to see things before it became crowded. Francis couldn’t have made a better recommendation. It was a little chilly so if you go, bring a sweater. When we got down to the floor of the crater, we started seeing Wildebeest and Cape Buffalo that were simply huge. A little later we came across some very large elephants and got what we think is one of our best shots.
One of Francis’ colleagues, who was guiding another party, notified him over the radio that they had seen a Black Rhino. So we shot across the crater to where he was located and were blessed to see a truly massive Black Rhino. Francis shared with us how lucky we were, because very often the rangers will drive the Rhinos away from the road so they don’t become used to / comfortable with the safari trucks.
As we drove back to Arusha that afternoon, we knew that we had experienced something really amazing and when we told our friends, before we came, that it was a “trip of a lifetime,” we didn’t know how right we had been.
My wife Heather and I are already planning our next trip. This one will likely just be us, but we came to love Tanzania in the few days we were there and there’s no better group to go with than Africa Dream Safari.
Jonathon A. Family
Safari Dates: May 14, 2016 to May 21, 2016
Our family and our Guide Francis
While contemplating the proper words to describe our Tanzania experience, I struggled to create some fresh verbiage, some unheard exclamations, some insightful condensation of what, for our traveling group of 7, was an indescribable, unexplainable journey to this country of human genesis. My inability to easily express our experience was not surprising.
Many times while we sojourned in glorious landscapes and encountered nature’s inexhaustible creations, we shared a common reflection that what we saw and felt was beyond words; no photograph or telling would stand up to the challenge of conveying what we witnessed and the attendant emotions we felt. And yet, I find myself chosen to accomplish this impossible goal. And so…
I am no poet or philosopher, but were I gifted with those talents, I would still not be able to compete with the inspirational words of John Hemingway as offered in the ADS literature. The lasting truth that resides in the heart of each of us who traveled on this amazing adventure is beautifully reflected in his quote:
“I believe there is no sickness of the heart too great it cannot be cured by a dose of Africa. Families must go there to learn why they belong together on this earth, adolescents to discover humility, lovers to plum old but untried wells of passion, honeymooners to seal marriages with a shared sense of bafflement, those shopworn with life to find a tonic for futility, the aged to recognize a symmetry to twilight…if I have ever seen magic, it has been in Africa.”
If we have ever seen magic, it was in Tanzania! The magic was present for us due to a combination of very special people, places and things. To begin with, there was the impeccable human service and care we received from each member of the African Dream Safaris staff – from Dawn Anderson with her patient counsel, advice, and follow-up as we explored the options for our trip, to Mathias and Michael who professionally and expertly greeted us at the Kilimanjaro Airport and took us seamlessly through customs and the hectic town of Arusha, making us feel comfortable in a foreign country with a different language and a different culture, to our guide Wilfred, who quickly became our trusted driver, professional encyclopedia and an intimate member of our traveling family.
Wilfred’s ability to discover the location of sought after animals was evidence of his skills and attributes which immediately laid the foundation for our comfort and trust with him. His candid and deep affection for his native country, its people, their customs, the animals and flora and fauna was interwoven in every interaction with him. Wilfred to us, was the touchstone for our entire trip; a highly intelligent and educated man with deep integrity and a humility common to the Tanzanian people. And like Wilfred we found the native people to be gracious, friendly, eager to help and willing to embrace our clan with openness and candor. From the staff at the lodges to the Maasai warriors in their self-made villages and on the roads, peace and inclusion prevailed.
And then there was the magic of the landscapes. Traveling from the Central Serengeti through and around the Seronera River Valley to the Grumeti River the vistas spread in grand profusion in all directions – from plains, to savannahs, to woodlands to forests, with kopjes and hills dotting the horizons like the works of art they were. Moving south through the Valley to Olduvai Gorge and on to the Ngorongoro Crater, we continued to be hypnotized, never tiring of the variety of flora and seemingly endless Serengeti scapes. And finally, in the Ngorongoro Crater it actually seemed possible to believe that we had arrived in the Garden of Eden – us and the animals in the serenity of unspoiled nature and beauty at its very best.
In each of our locations our accommodations were an experience unto themselves. From the rustic Mbalageti Lodge with four poster beds and claw foot tubs, to the culinary treats at the Mbuzi Mawe Lodge, to the Maasai warrior escorts and lake front views at the Masek Lake Camp, we were pampered with attention and service deserving of a five star rating. And the views of the sunset over the rim of the crater from our last resting place, the Ngorongoro Serena Lodge, concluded our journey with awe inspiring perfection.
Finally, but certainly the central treasure of the trip, were the animals, birds and reptiles who allowed us to explore a snippet of their daily lives in this unspoiled environment. Thanks to the stellar efforts and superman eyesight of Wilfred, we saw them all, male and female, families and bachelors, old and young, in herds and alone, at rest and stalking their prey. And we saw them up close, sometimes from six feet, sometimes from 20 feet.
In order of appearance on the first day alone: Impala, Topi, Wildebeest, Thompson Gazelle, Yellow Billed Stork, Hippo, Blue Tailed Monkey, Lion (pride of 20), Giraffe, Eland, Wart Hog, Zebra, Malibu Stork, Egyptian Geese, Water buck, Lilac Breasted Roller, Cape Buffalo. Each day brought additional sightings of these and others: Marabou Stork, Crown Plover Tawny Eagle, DaDa, Hammer Cop, Hyena, Open Billed Stork, Jackal, Bandit and Dwarf Mongoose, Crocodile, Nile Monitor Lizard, Elephant, Leopard, Cheetahs, Wooly Neck Stork, Secretary Bird, Kori Bustard, Ostrich, Dick Dick, Hyrax, Black Faced Monkey, Blue Goliath Heron, Hartebeest, Guinea Fowl, Golden Jackal, Elan, Aardvark, Grant Gazelle, Crown Crane, Long Crested Eagle, Bat Head Fox, Superb Starling, Steenbok, Wild Dog and last, but not the least of the beasts, a Black Rhinoceros.
Thanks again to Wilfred’s patience and concern for our lists of wants, our encounters with each of these unique creatures are captured in photos that will forever entice us to once again witness the magic of Tanzania: the giraffe families protecting their newly born offspring while effortlessly nibbling on the tops of thorn-adorned acacia trees, or the cheetah participating in nature’s orchestrated dance for survival as she patiently eyed and stalked her prey, or the gazelles pronking across the plains warning nearby kinsmen of potential danger, or dashingly handsome impala horn jousting for the right to challenge the dominate male who calming looked on from the safety of his harem, or the myriads of water holes gently caressing the enclave of enormous hippo “boulders” nestled together like tiny cubs in a den, or the magnificent crown crane parents raking the fields for the insect or seed that would sustain their two nestlings who adeptly wove through their parents’ stilt-like legs as the family crosses the Savannah, or the thrill of being enveloped and transported by never-ending herds of wildebeest and zebras as they continue the legacy of the great migration.
If we have ever seen magic, it was in Tanzania! Our travel group has been many places and seen many things in many parts of the world. This safari adventure was quite simply, our best trip. Our heartfelt gratitude goes to ADS, Dawn, Michael, Mathias and our new brother, Wilfred, for showing us the magic. And our unending gratitude to the Divine Power that created the magic.
We pray that humanity will do its part in helping the Tanzanian people to protect this irreplaceable treasure.
San Jose, California
Safari Dates: May 1, 2016 to May 11, 2016