We arrived at night on March 16 2016 to a warm breeze in Arusha. Our driver handed us bracelets made by Masai women for us girls, along with stamped postcards too. We were escorted right through check in and fell exhausted onto our comfy beds at the nicest hotel in town.
After a lovely breakfast on the porch our guide Patrick greeted us in the lobby with Masai gifts – beautifully beaded clubs (angoras) for the boys and traditional necklaces for the girls. After loading luggage and boxed lunches into the dark green jeep that was to be our transport for the coming days. We drove through small towns witnessing women carrying heavy loads on their heads, old men hawking batiks as the car stopped, and babies hanging onto their moms backs holding on with a pappoose.
Further along we started seeing Masai villages – clumps of Bomas and endless herds of cattle and goat, statuesque Masai men shepherding them along. We saw women walking to retrieve water from a faraway spring, and some children in uniform on their way to school.
Arriving in Tarangire National Park we were greeted by massive Baobob trees, punished by God according to legend they were forced to grow upside down, many live to be thousands of years. A small harem of impalas were the first animals to greet us; then came the giraffes….lots of them meandering from tree to tree, in the distance and close near the road.
Warthog families grunted around the grass, while black-faced vervet monkeys (also called “blue ball monkeys for obvious reason) ran and jumped around the grass and on the trees, taunting us during our picnic lunch trying to steal some food.
We saw our first group of elephants by a dried up riverbed, digging deep in the mud for cool water seeping beneath. We started seeing many more elephants after that, in herds under trees and the lone one here and there. We stopped to observe one young bull in the tall grass, not 15 feet from our vehicle, who after a few minutes started to charge us, so our ever-calm guide drove slowly away.
Along our way through the park we spotted mongoose, wildebeests, water bucks and a leopard turtle; ostriches and beautiful birds – lavender colored with red feathers, large red billed something and vultures, doves….lots of giraffes and elephants!
Driving out of the park there were Masai settlements along the way. The children ran alongside our jeep begging for our empty water bottles which they would use to carry water from the springs to their homes; we threw all the ones we had out the window.
We spent the night in Maramboi, a peaceful camp with a view of lake Manyara, watching the zebras in the distance while we sipped wine by the pool, and the pink-white lamingos flying high at sunset. The chefs whipped up yummy stir fried dishes to order for dinner outside, under the stars.
Tarangire National Park
The next day was much of the same, driving around trying to spot something. We watched a troop of baboons for a while, the tiniest newborn clinging to its mom, the dominant male exerting his aggression to the younger ones. We stopped to see a giant bull elephant near a waterhole, magnificent creature, covered in reddish-brown mud to protect from the sun, gracefully pulling water into his trunk and then his mouth, ears flapping away at the flies.
We spotted a female lion on a mound in the distance, looking for her next meal, likely. After checking back into our Arusha hotel, we sat by the pool before another delicious meal.
Into the Serengeti
We were driven to the airstrip to board a tiny prop plane, and flew just above the clouds on this beautiful sunny morning to the Serengeti plain. We were greeted by our guide David, also known as Chando based on his tribe since he’s the only one of his kind in the area. We started out to explore the national park, spotting our first giraffe not too far from the main village.
Along the way we saw Thompson and grants gazelle, heart beast named for the shape of their horns, three kinds of vultures and literally thousands of zebra and wildebeests. We spotted two Cape buffalo lazing under a tree, solemnly waiting out their older years as bachelors too old to keep up with a younger-led herd. These animals are one of the big five, considered dangerous and known to kill a man.
Our first encounter with the migrating herds was the zebra – first seen crossing the road in a hurry, then our eyes followed the line as they kept coming, which seemed to have no end. Traveling in family groups they clustered by the hundreds, whinnying like donkeys yet almost horse-like, their colored stripes looked unreal against the tall greenish brown grasses. There were lots of babies, still brown-striped and immature, following close to the adults who bore them.
We spotted our first hippo meandering slowly to the water, lumbering down the embankment to join his companions, about three or four others submerged with their large backs above the surface, grunting like pigs as they surfaced for a little air occasionally.
We stayed by the riverbank and watched the herds of wildebeests and zebra intermingling like they were at a cocktail party, taking turns at the water to discover it muddy, refreshing their dusty bodies instead. The zebras were clearly the superior of the two species, the wildebeests following along for the ride, each diligently protecting their respective young of which their were many.
White storks hung out with the next gigantic herds we witnessed migrating by the thousands across the plains. We saw lots of different interesting birds, including sand grouse and a chicken-like grouping of birds that were gray with spots and blue necks and heads. Our guide spotted a leopard hanging out in a tree and quickly drove over the grass for a closer look. We observed it moving a little, relishing the thought of seeing the rarest of the big five on our first day here.
Seronera Sametu Camp
We were greeted by JJ at the lovely Sametu camp who brought out cool wet towels to wipe our dusty hands and faces and his helper offered cool pineapple juice for all of us. After settling into our tents we left the kids behind and headed out for another game drive. Beautiful birds and more zebras and wildebeests dotted the landscape as we approached the Kopjes – unusual rock formations punctuating the flAt plains like lunar mountains. We spotted giraffes grazing the trees in the distance as we approached the huge rocks and slowly circled around, seeing hyrax, a vole-like creature perched high above.
There they were, two lion sisters lazing on the rocks under a tree hugging the side of one of them. They were sleeping side by side, occasionally looking up to yawn or stretch or turn before settling down again. Majestic and beautiful, we watched them for awhile before heading back.
Crossing the road we caught glimpse of our second leopard of the day, quickly skulking in the tall grass sitting down to watchfully wait for a group of blue helmeted grouse to wander into the weeds, but they knew better and stayed on the open road. We watched the leopard as he watched us through the thick grasses until dusk started to fall and we headed back. On the road near camp we spotted a nocturnal African hare crossing the road.
After a quick bucket shower we had cool beer and delicious meal – the puréed soup was superb. The crew came out with a beautiful cake and clapped and chanted a joyful African set before singing happy birthday to our son. Exhausted, we settling in for a restful night listening to the sounds of the Serengeti.
Serengeti – Day Two
Getting up early the next morning was well worth it. We headed southeast of central Serengeti, among the remotest areas of the region, passing groups of Thompson and grant gazelle, topi which look like dark brown and black buff deer, hearts beasts and Impala in the wooded areas. Bird we saw included the odd-looking secretary bird, tawny eagle, white faced and Nubian vultures (there are 7 species of vultures in the area, one of which eats lion poop), and other kinds of Eagles. We saw the tiny did dik, smaller Athena the Thompson gazelle, and watched a group of mongoose on some flat rocks frolicking around in the morning sun.
We came upon the Sametu Kopjes to discover two pairs of lions, one on the ground and one atop the rocks. The lioness on the ground wore a radio collar, among those being tracked by the park. Above them in a tree was a tawny eagle tearing away at a fresh piece of meat, undoubtedly caught that morning. The pair on the ground got up and moved after awhile to a shadier side of the rock. There was a large group of gazelle not 100 yards from them, confident in their ability to outrun them and also the fact they were sleepy.
Not far from the Kopjes (Dutch for “little heads”‘ aptly named grouping of rocks jutting out of the flat landscape), we spotted a female lion lying by the side of a shallow marsh, a group of five Cubs close by in the grass gnawing away at a freshly killed baby wildebeest. We watched them for awhile, fighting and playing and chasing away the vultures a hundred different shades that lurked close by in the sky and ground. After awhile she led them to a drinking spring where they all indulged before heading back to the open marsh bank.
The female started walking towards the Kopjes, grunting/growling at the cubs to stay behind in the tall grass. She came so close to our vehicle – at one point she sat behind the right side of the car, so near we could hear her breathing. We followed her back to the rocks where she joined a young make on the high rock, lazing away.
After some time she started beckoning the Cubs from there to stay hidden. But they weren’t listening so she headed back to retrieve them. We watched as they marched towards the rocks in a line, climbed to the highest one and settled in for their afternoon siesta.
We returned to Sametu Camp for hearty lunch of spaghetti bolognase and yet another amazing puréed soup – this time pumpkin – and then rested up a bit before heading out again, this time with the kids. It wasn’t long before we spotted a pair of lions lying by the side of the road. The female was clearly in heat, the males mouth open to inhale her scent and not long after he mounted her right there, in front of everyone watching as by now other vehicles had pulled alongside to witness the fuss.
The whole business didn’t take but a couple minutes, the female rolled on her back when they were done. We watched them for awhile longer before heading on. We saw a herd of elephants traversing the plain in the distance and tried to drive around for a closer look. On the way we spotted a cheetah, it’s head just visible above the tall grasses beside a lush marshy area. On the way back we saw some more ostriches goofily wandering aimlessly around, some lesser bustard birds and just at dusk black backed jackals.
We were once again greeted by JJ and his towels on our return to camp. After quick bucket showers, we enjoyed another delicious puréed vegetable soup and fish curry, then we sat by the fire and watched lightening in the distance before settling into another restful night listening to the crickets and hyenas outside.
Serengeti – Day Three
Early morning JJ brought us strong coffee to our tent while we readied for the day. After a hearty breakfast of oatmeal and eggs we headed out, spotting a Serval cat by the roadside pouncing a mouse for his breakfast.
Heading towards the airstrip area we saw a clan of spotted hyenas – a couple of Cubs frolicking in the grass watched by a band of adults. We soon passed the den where one stood watch, not ten feet from our vehicle. As we past the wooded area we saw Cape buffalo, magnificent and large and slow.
The hippo pool was indeed something to see, dozens of the pig-like, smelly beasts piled on type of each other in the shallow, shit-filled water. We spotted a baby croc on the opposite shore, and baboons jumping on the rocks just past. We watched the hippos for awhile, small groups of stray makes crashing in the water to the sleepy pile, greeted by grunts and snorts of “go away” from the big Bulls who wanted the females and territory to themselves. Signs of recent aggression were apparent in the fresh bloody cuts on the backs of some; mother protecting their babies in the rare event one of the big Bulls might chomp at them.
After the hippos we picnicked at the tourist center before going to Serena lodge to drop the kids for a swim. We passed a couple of baboon troops traveling along the roadside, one of the infants jumping on and off its mother’s back. Through the woods to the lodge we passed doses of Impala – harems with the dominant male, bachelors hanging around the edges.
We settled the kids by the pool and then headed out with just us and our guide David to witness the great migration – it wasn’t long before we encountered hundreds of zebra along the road, stretching across the plain as far as we could see. Wildebeests peppered the herd, and we watched as the adults protected the sleeping young and males nipped and neighed at each other to stake their mutual claims. Further along we saw the migration morph into mostly wildebeests with some zebra mixed in, jumping around and leaping across the water.
Majestic Maribol storks looked like a cross between the prettier white stork and a vulture; they actually were in the trees with vultures too and a long-dead Thompson gazelle hanging upside down. Later we saw a bunch of them in the bed near the water, their knees bending backwards as they awkwardly sit.
We passed four lionesses by a riverbed, sitting and looking and enjoying the light rain shower that started. We encountered a couple of black-faced vervet monkeys, the infant frolicking on the tree trunk.
Further along two bull elephants wandered the plain, green mountains behind them and a thunderstorm raging on the other side. After we picked up the kids we stopped to watch a herd of elephants cross the road in front of us, then spotted alone lion in a mound overlooking a small group of hippos in a shallow pool nearby. David our guide somehow managed to maneuver the vehicle through the slippery mud as the rain got harder and harder. Heading back towards camp the sky cleared to pink as dusk fell.
We spotted a black-eared fox scuttle around the Kopjes, some random ostriches and a lonely bull elephant as we headed back, water buck greeted us on the road to our campsite, then JJ with his towels. We ordered a second bucket shower so each had longer, then ate a wonderful meal of zucchini soup, lamb and potatoes with leek that Simon couldn’t get enough of. We sat by the fire listening to JJ regale us with scary lion stories as the kids cuddled together in the big bed in their tent to watch a movie.
Onto South Serengeti
We witnessed another beautiful sunrise at Sametu camp as we sipped the strong coffee with warm milk JJ prepared for us. He scanned the area with a telescope and spotted a mother lion and two baby Cubs not far from the camp.
After breakfast the crew loaded our bags and bid farewell, heading towards the airstrip we spotted a black backed jackal, that lonely elephant again, and lots of ostriches wandering aimlessly around. We then headed south towards Ngorongoro, traversing endless stretches of Serengeti – aptly named “endless plain”. A couple of lone nomadic giraffes munching on the occasional tree interrupted the monotony of tall and short grasses and gazelle by the dozens.
We returned to Sametu Kopjes to visit the adopted lion family – just the females and Cubs were visible laying on the cool rocks at the height of the day. There was a lot of nothing as we kept our eyes peeled for cheetah, to avail. We stopped to eat lunch in the car in the openness, and The Cheetah Project researcher stopped by in his gold jeep to chat.
There were gazelle galore, mostly Thompson, some grant, and a few heart beasts sprinkled in. We saw a couple more jackals, lots of secretary birds and corrie bustards on the ground and vultures perched on big dead trees, reminding us of a Halloween still. We stopped at Naabi Hill station on our way out of the Serengeti, and climbed up to enjoy the lovely view.
After an extremely bumpy, rocky ride through the woods we came upon the shallow Ndutu lake where pink flamingo waded, giraffes crunching down front legs spread to eat the low grass. We finally arrived at Lake Masek Tented Lodge where Masai hosts greeted us and showed us to our lovely semi-permanent tents overlooking the lake. Giraffe are wandering close to the main reception area, the kids are happy with the free wifi, we are happy with unlimited hot water for our showers.
It’s cooler here near the crater and just lovely; we were warned not to walk alone as the buffalo are out in full force. We enjoyed a lovely buffet dinner despite the giant moths flapping around us; the complimentary wine might have helped. We slept so soundly to the music of crickets and hippos snorting in the lake below.
South Serengeti Reprise
We left the kids to sleep in and headed out after breakfast to encounter Steinbeck deer and African dik dik in the woods outside camp. We saw a couple black backed jackal, and soon after we came upon the great marsh where dozens of giraffes roamed around the low trees, and a huge flock of flamingoes waded for shrimp in the shallow waters.
The drive was beautiful – a bright but cloudy sky generated a cool constant breeze. The area was lush and green and the air moist. The roads were so muddy in some parts the jeep swooshed and fishtailed. Driving along watching the secretary birds peck and a few random zebra over the glen we came upon a caracol cat, a rare sighting indeed, rarer still we watched as it pounced a large mouse and proceeded to devour it right before our eyes. We gazed amazed until it skulked away into the high brush.
We crossed the muddy marsh that was once filled like a river to find the lions. Our first sighting included three females and one male, exhausted from the two females in heat demanding his attention. He mounted one right away, then the other came over to complain and he roared her away until 10 minutes later when he did his business with her too. The other female lay quietly several yards away, happily uninvolved. We drove on to find a few more lions further along the marsh, a couple of females and some younger ones lazing on the wet ground and in the bushes.
Heading through the woods we encountered a few more dik dik, some eland – the largest of the antelope closely related to cows, the ever-present Impala, and of course lots of giraffes. Coming into the clearing we came upon a massive migration herd, mostly wildebeests with zebra peppered in, and Lots of wildebeest babies.
They parted like the Red Sea as we moved slowly forward in the vehicle. We crossed one plain and then another in search of the elusive cheetah, marveling at the nomadic, majestic giraffes gracefully crossing the plain, cutting into the horizon line with their long necks. We searched the short brown grasses far and wide, cutting this way and that looking for the cats.
After over an hour we spotted two other jeeps in the distance and knew we found success. We spotted what looked like white wood sticking out from the bushes, but it turned out to be the freshly killed baby wildebeest that belonged to the exhausted cheetah sitting close by.
We spotted one younger one near her settled into the high bushes. She looked up as we approached, and our patience paid off as she stood and stalked over to her cub, the sat down again and looked right at us as if to pose for the photos. Wondrous sighting indeed. When we spotted a group of elephants gathered under the acacias we knew our day was complete.
To top it off we saw a rainbow on our ride back to camp; the kids perked up a bit when a small dung beetle about 1 1/2″ diameter flew inside the jeep; our guide salvaged it alive and let it out on the ground as he pulled the roof tarp closed to the coming heavy rain. Our ride back was slippery and the roads hard to find, but we made it safely back to camp in time for hot showers and a yummy dinner.
The next morning we bid farewell to lake Masek lodge and wifi after a hearty breakfast and headed out on our journey to the crater. We passed dozens of giraffes on our way out of the great marsh area, and ran into migration cross traffic as we swerved along the muddy roads. We reached the plain taking the boundary road dividing the Serengeti and Ngorogoro parks, Naabi hill to our left and the the Ngorogoro mountain range to our right.
Zebra, gazelle and ostriches roamed around, and we passed a couple of cadres of vultures and Maribol storks feasting on leftovers. When we started to see herds of sheep and goat we knew we were in Masai country. A young girl ran at top speed towards our jeep as we sped along, robes flapping open and closed, arms outstretched yelling for something. Our guide slowed the car to hand her a bottle of water – she took it and looked at us, saying nothing, perhaps stunned or disappointed.
The roads were rocky and dusty as we started to pass the Masai villages, shepherds wandering alongside the roads, children waving for their pictures to be taken. We decided to forego a visit to the Olduvai gorge to optimize our time at the village instead. We were greeted by the chief Losawa, one of three in the village of 120 who spoke English. Men and women marched out in separate lines to greet us, the men bouncing up and down blowing instruments that looked like PVC pipes, the women stood by in a line chanting a complement to the men’s.
After our greeting we were led inside who watch a jumping contest and invited to join in – first the men, then the women. Then they showed us how they made fire – no matches, just hard no soft sticks rubbed together to create a spark on top of a knife, the burning embers then transferred to a bunch of dried grass which quickly became ablaze.
We were divided up into twos to receive a tour of the Bomas – made of branches and dung, hot and dusty, two flat beds made of sticks to accommodate a family of six. A small fire pit cooked food for them, a hole cut in the roof above the chimney. Tarps were used to protect in rain. There were hornets flying around. It was good to get outside again, where they showed us crafts made by the family of the Boma we visited, encouraged to buy to show our appreciation.
We heard the children singing in the small shed made of sticks that was the school, the teacher a tall lovely young woman with a great smile. They all sat on the one long bench as we stood and listened to the chief tell us about their schooling – about 20 or so, some very little. One girl maybe 5 played teacher by the blackboard, holding the stick that was the ruler and leading the kids in recitation of the alphabet. Adorable. We waved goodbye to the school and started our hike through the hills – 5 K or so, up rocky hills, across the brush, encountering herds of cattle along the way that all belonged to the village.
We finally reached the road where our guide greeted us with box lunches. We picnicked right there at the top of the hill as it started to rain, looking out at the vast mountain range that surrounded the crater. We said goodbye to the chief and his son who had joined and headed into Ngorogoro, down a super steep hill to the bottom of the crater. Beautiful bright colored birds – green and yellow and electric blue – fluttered around the bushes along with many varieties of butterfly.
The view from inside the crater was spectacular, like being in a bowl made of green mountains, the lake in the center was pink from the massive flock of flamingoes. Resident zebra, gazelle and wildebeests coming led with Cape buffalo, the most we’ve encountered so far. Beautiful crowned egrets poke around, along with families of warthogs. We spotted three lions lazing in the sun near a clump of trees, two sprawled out on the rocks like spilled coffee.
Circling near the edge of the crater into the woods we saw a big herd of elephants, two young bulls play-fighting. Further along there were two huge elephant. Ills by the stream, one seemed about to charge as we carefully drove forward to witness the baboon troop of more than forty scurry from the hilly roadside into the massive tree there, jumping and screeching and eating the fruits and flowers it bore.
As we drove back out onto the crater floor we passed more of every kind of animal we’ve seen so far munching on the short grasses, in search of the rare rhino. Finding none as the hot sun started to set we headed to Ngorongoro Lions Paw camp, similar in every way to Sametu except for the view – instead of flat dry plain we were in, lush dense forest, with a view of the mountains and crater just beneath – and the climate, as it became very chilly after sundown.
We chatted with an interesting couple from Hawaii by the campfire before enjoying a lovely meal, then snuggled in our cozy tents for the night, finding fuzzy hot water bottles waiting for us under the heavy blankets.
Ngorogoro Day Two
We headed back into the crater the next morning, the undulating rim covered in a hundred different shades velvety greens. Zebra, Thompson and grant gazelle, and the ever-present wildebeests peppered the crater floor landscape; ostrich, white storks and beautiful crowned cranes poked around the grasses, while bunches of hippos lazed in the marshy pools we seemed to pass every couple miles, cattle crane birds perched atop their mostly submerged bodies.
There was an an abundance of Cape buffalo, the highest concentration we’ve encountered yet, hanging in clumps of 5, 10, 20 and more, huge lumbering beasts, slow and ominous.
Our guide suddenly started racing down the packed red dirt road towards a line-up of jeeps to take us to our first rhino sighting. She was in the distance, beyond a small group of buffalo trying to blend in, munching on the grasses. She moved slowly across the horizon as everyone marveling tried to capture images of this disappearing breed.
Our guide explained this was a black rhino, differentiated from the white by the color their mouths. The white really refers to “vite”, the Dutch word meaning wide, and are mainly found in South Africa. We watched her move around and then moved on, towards a rest stop, and spotted some Masai shepherds with their goats near the wooded edge of the rim. An incongruous sight, making us a bit envious that they were able to walk around among the beasts of the crater.
At the rest stop two elephants trotted by not 100 yards from where we stood. Driving on we spotted a few hyenas and jackals, which looked a lot like small German shepherds. We past by the rhino again which was lying in the grass; unmoving, we decided to head onto lunch at a beautiful spot by a marsh with large trees and lush papyrus, hippos peeking just above the water, and hundreds of cattle egret on the far side.
Our guide swiped at the large kite birds trying to swoop down to grab our food as we sat around the blanket. Feeling sated we headed back up the small hill, past zebras back towards the rhino which had now moved closer to the roadside. After capturing some more pictures we drove around, watching the swirling dervishes of dust kicked up by the strong winds sweeping across the crater floor.
We spotted some Eland, the largest of the antelopes, black stripes wrapped around their legs like ankle bracelets, their swirled horns recalling silly straws and unicorns. A male lion lazed the grass, and we saw two more rhino, separate and some distance apart, plopped in the middle of the open plain.
Tired after more than six hours of driving around we headed back, rewarded with a group of five male lions – three of them teenaged – on the road out of the crater. We stood up and faced backward to savor one final glimpse of the awesome crater before heading back into camp for a restful afternoon before dinner.
We bid farewell to Edward and his crew the next morning before heading out towards Arusha. As we drove out of the camp along the crater rim we were greeted by spectacular views of the landscape 2000 feet below, the faded moon high in the pale blue sky as the bright sun pushed up through the clouds that were almost at eye level. We stopped at a lookout to take one last photo together, savoring the fresh air and moonlike beauty of the crater and rim surrounding us.
Once we drove over the rim the winding dirt roads seemed to change almost immediately to smooth asphalt, and the scenery changed dramatically as well. We sped past small clumps of dilapidated roadside shacks and houses, some made of concrete, others sticks and stones, covered with tin roofs or what looked like rotting wood.
The people were as fascinating to watch as the animals in safari. Young children walking together unattended by adults, men riding bicycles laden with heavy loads of what looked like hay or some other type of plants. Three-wheeled little toy cars that were taxis hauling people to and fro.
Women with heavy loads on their heads. There were Masai men and women walking along in their distinctive robes and elaborate jewelry, intermingled with the many in western style wear or traditional African costumes. Women by the roadside selling from their baskets filled with vegetables and fruits, groups of men lazing under shade tress in plastic chairs. It was the saturday before Easter, so half day of work for most.
We soon drove onto a dirt road towards the FAME clinic, a non-profit started by a California couple 14 years ago. “Dr. Frank” greeted us, a tall man with a big personality, and we immediately made a “Philly” connection based on his relationship with a neurologist from Penn who donates his time there regularly.
A cardiac anesthesiologist by training, he was born in Ethiopia and inspired by his missionary parents to emigrate to Tanzania with his wife Susan late in his career. She came to greet us and took us on a comprehensive tour of the facility, at once proud and thankful and full of gratitude for her staff. She seemed genuinely happy to do what she does – a counselor/psychologist, she clearly found her calling here.
She showed us around the intake rooms, maternity ward, new radiology building and temperature-controlled laboratory with modern equipment, all mostly donated. The pharmacy was stocked with primarily generics from India, but they are trying to source equipment locally to make it easier to get spare parts. She introduced us to a young girl, Katherine, whose education was sponsored by a an American couple; Susan was truly proud of her, as she was of herself as she humbly shared she was a maid before this with a lump in her throat.
FAME is committed to educating the local people to practice medicine, importing specialists from all over the world to volunteer for weeks at a time in order to teach the Tanzanian doctors and nurses. Their current focus is maternal-child health and education, encouraging the midwives from the outlying villages to come and learn how to identify high risk pregnancies so they can pre-empt emergencies by referring those cases directly before it’s too late.
At the end of the tour Susan showed us the mobile clinic trucks which set up twice monthly near outlying orphanages so people from farther away can receive the care they need. The visit was truly inspirational – even the kids were intrigued.
We headed on through Karkatu, a small town on the outskirts of the Arusha region. We then got onto the great central road that cut through the entire continent, starting in northernmost Kenya and going all the way down to South Africa. Boma villages appeared hat seemed to be every couple miles, herds of mostly goats tended by Masai boys and young men; women walking along what seemed to be endless fields, alone or in pairs, carrying nothing, just walking.
Hilly, dusty, sometimes barren-looking, some green-brown brush and occasional low trees here and there. We stopped at a shady roadside shop to picnic our final boxed lunch – same hard boiled egg, piece of chicken, slice of quiche, boxed juice, small banana, apple and chocolate bar. There were two domesticated cats wandering at our feet who enjoyed the meaty bones we threw.
Driving into Arusha we passed crowded streets filled with busy shops and people. The images were overloading at times – dust and dogs and all kinds of noises and smells, colors and dirt, slipshod buildings barely held up by tin signs bearing soda brand names, women grilling ears of worn, men seeking purses and socks and knapsacks and anything you can imagine, piles of goods there on the dirt sidewalk.
Some people are dressed up in suits and skirts, maybe coming from work, maybe for the holiday. Chickens and goats wandering freely, children clinging close to their mothers, young adults gathered on corners shooting the breeze. It was fascinating and exhausting and somehow overwhelming that so many live this way.
We arrived at the hotel and bid farewell to our guide David, or “Chondo” as his peers called him. We had a couple hours for a quick swim, re-packing and early dinner before heading to the airport with our ADS hosts Mattais and Oli. We strained for a glimpse of Mount Kilamanjaro but the clouds were too heavy; maybe next time…
It was a truly unforgettable trip.
David, Suzann, Melissa, Zoe and Simon S.
Safari Dates: March 16, 2016 to March 26, 2016
My wife and I have been traveling to Africa since 1967 and during the last 24 months we have traveled to Africa 4 times, once to travel the Coptic trail in Ethiopia, and 3 times on Photographic safaris. We travel by ourselves, and arrange trips with the help of someone on the tour operator’s side. We are very familiar with tour operators, from the United States, as well as Africa. We are concerned with the entire journey, including the camps, the food, accommodations, driver/guides, and the operator’s ability to meet our needs. Furthermore, the cost of the trip is something we are very conscious of.
This trip was a photographic safari, and 3 people traveled together, my wife, our South African Wildlife Photographer friend, and myself. The purpose of this trip was to see and photograph the calving of wildebeests, in the Serengeti. The trip was arranged with African Dream Safaris, through our South African friend, and my wife, Myra, and numerous emails occurred. While African Dream Safaris has its World Headquarters in the United States, our communications seemed to always be through the people in Tanzania, and they were always appropriate, helpful, and candid.
The trip was arranged about 12 months prior to leaving, and this was simple, and very well done. The communications from African Dream Safaris were excellent, including the final itinerary, and getting the necessary Tanzanian visa forms, and having them filled out saved us a great deal of time…getting through the immigration melee was really easy…and that was great.
We were met in Arusha upon landing, and driven to Arusha National Park and our first night stay at the Hatari Camp. This accommodation was fine, and we had a nice day, as we continued to get our internal body clock organized. African Dream Safaris had recommended staying in the National Park in contrast to Arusha, and the camp was more than pleasant. We were able to sleep well, travel through the National Park, and then get on a plane that flew us to the Serengeti and the Lake Masek tented camp.
Lake Masek Camp had been recommended and really met our needs. Our driver, who stayed with us the entire journey, drove to the Masek Tent camp from Arusha. In Tanzania, most of the Safari operators have their own vehicles, and your driver stays with you the entire time. The driver is not an employee of the camp site. Our driver-guide was really nice, accommodating, helpful, and was in tune with our need to move our vehicle into different positions in order to get the best photographic shot. And, often we just waited and sat watching the animals, and the driver was fine with this. We had a large amount of photographic gear, which was easily placed into the vehicles, and was readily accessible.
The camps that were recommended and chosen were very good, and the first one in the Serengeti was the Lake Masek tented camp. The accommodation was a large, clean, and nice tent with an outdoor shower. The tent was a short walk to the dinning area, which had indoor and outdoor places to eat. The food, breakfast and dinner primarily, were well done, sufficient in quantity, and very tasty.
Each morning, our breakfast was more than sufficient, and everything was ready so that we could get an early start on the day. This camp was chosen by African Dream Safaris, and was perfect for us. We stayed in camp for four nights, and the time spent in one camp, enabled us to travel around the Serengeti easily. When we traveled great distances, we were able to pack our lunches. Our driver named Francis was friendly, accommodating, helpful, and participated as needed as we decided our itinerary.
After the Serengeti, we traveled to the Ngorongoro Crater, and stayed in the only tented camp within the park, Lion’s Paw Tented Camp. The food was very good, and, despite being the only guests of the camp, our hosts were lovely, and accommodating. This was an excellent choice was made by African Dream Safaris, because, being inside the Park, enabled us to get up early, eat breakfast, and get down into the crater early. This really helped avoid the morning traffic of people coming from various sites outside the crater. We stayed two nights at Lion’s Paw Camp, and then drove to Arusha, stopping in an Iraqw village, and met an elder. We also stopped at Lake Manyara National Park which was lovely.
The trip was made easy, and the information supplied by African Dream Safaris, before we arrived, gave us what you need: contact numbers, items to avoid, the costs, how to tip, and what you should be aware of. The people, who represented the Africa Dream Safaris were friendly, verbal, approachable, professional, knowledgeable, and very helpful. We asked to find out about buying some appropriate African art pieces, and they got is to the Cultural Heritage Gallery in Arusha without problem.
I would without hesitation recommend them as a tour operator, which is knowledgeable, helpful, and their employees like what they are doing. The cost of this trip was more than reasonable, and do not be afraid to compare the trips prices. My wife would travel with them again, without hesitation.
Jerry and Myra D.
Safari Dates: February 1, 2016 to February 10, 2016
Myself, a professional wildlife photographer, and my husband, guide book writer for the Bradt guide to Tanzania went on safari in Northern Tanzania with Africa Dream Safaris for the third time in March 2016. In total we have visited Tanzania more than a dozen times, but our safaris with A.D.S. never disappoint. This time was no exception.
As before, the vehicle was really comfortable and reliable. There is an onboard fridge with a good supply of water and soft drinks as well as some sweets to keep you going between meals. Binoculars are provided as well. Our driver guide, Michael was good company and was ever patient with our demanding photographer’s ways of keeping on trying to get the best angle and lots of waiting with good sightings.
This time we did a two-week safari in the Serengeti. It is a real privilege to spend a good chunk of time in one of Africa’s best National Parks and we enjoy getting in the rhythm of spending time in the bush. This time, we covered the whole of the Serengeti starting in the Ndutu area in the South. We then made our way north through Central Serengeti, the Western Corridor and the far North Serengeti.
We travelled in March and wildlife is fantastic at this time around the Southern parts, but moving away from that area had it own advantages as we often had the whole lodge and game drive area to ourselves.
As usual, every day in the Serengeti offers something special: a special sighting, a special experience or something unusual…some of these sightings offer a good photo opportunity, some don’t. Here are a few images of our special encounters on this trip:
As we drove into the Serengeti, we came across a jackal feeding on a newly born wildebeest. In March most of the female wildebeests have calves and these are easy pickings for predators.
After dropping their babies in the South of the park in February the wildebeest were now migrating north.
The Serengeti must be THE place for watching lions. Lion kills, lions with cubs suckling or playing, lions in trees and of course the sleeping lions which you can just ignore after two days in the Serengeti as by then they really aren’t even worth stopping for anymore.
We had many great cheetah sightings. Cheetahs hunting and on kills. This time, we didn’t get very lucky with the leopard sightings, but then a few days before our departure we found two big leopard cubs left behind by the mum while she was presumably out hunting. They were a bit shy at first, but as we spend more time with them they became bolder and curious. What a treat photographing this brother and sister pair.
The rocky outcrops in the North (called koppies) are great for photographing klipspringers. We focused a few game drives on them and I’m pleased with the pictures.
A balloon safari is always a highlight. As two balloons went up we had the opportunity of photographing the other balloon itself at sunrise.
The birds are always a treat and I can say that Michael, our guide had a good birding knowledge. We managed to get some good shots of some of the more colourful species like the Bateleur and Fisher’s lovebird.
Lastly, a beautiful giraffe image with the Ngorongoro Crater Highlands in the background and one of the Serengeti’s big tusker elephants.
We’ll be back again and we can highly recommend Africa Dream Safaris to any visitors to Tanzania, whether you are first time visitors to Africa or bush fundies like ourselves.
Thanks again for a great safari – it really was fantastic.
Philip Briggs and Ariadne Van Zandbergen
Safari Dates: March 11, 2016 to March 25, 2016
Philip Briggs is the author of Bradt Guides to Tanzania, Northern Tanzania Safaris, and East African Wildlife, as well as a dozen other books about Africa. Please visit bradtguides.com for more information. Ariadne Van Zandbergen is a travel and wildlife photographer specializing in Africa with work published in hundreds of books and magazines and has her own photo library. Please visit africaimagelibrary.com for more information.
Philip’s published works include Bradt Guides to Tanzania, Northern Tanzania Safaris, and East African Wildlife, as well as many several other books about Africa. Many loyal fans follow Philip’s travel advice and recommendations very closely when planning their own dream safari vacations. And rightfully so…Philip has traveled extensively in Tanzania for many years and offers an unparalleled perspective from which to judge any African Safari company. So, needless to say we were thrilled when he came back with a glowing review for Africa Dream Safaris!