I am a professional photographer and cinematographer here in the States.
I have been to Tanzania three times previously, all three times with Africa Dreams. Most recently, I actually went to help with some of the videos that appear on this website. I am, to say the least, a fan of Africa Dreams Safaris.
So when ADS invited me back in 2016, how could I refuse? Upon my safe return they asked if I would jot down a few words about my trip. What could I say that I haven’t already said before? Just the fact that I have now been 4 times with the same company speaks volumes. But still, I had to say something. So in the vein of doing something “different”, I’m sending this along.
Pineville, North Carolina
Safari Dates: May 9, 2016 to May 16, 2016
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