As a repeat african safari customer with ADS, my expectations were very high for this trip and ADS did not disappoint. Over forty years ago my family lived in Bumbuli, Tanzania for two months as my Dad participated in a dental mission trip. Four years ago my two sisters, their husbands and I returned to visit Bumbuli and went on a safari with ADS into several of the national parks. On the testimonial page of the African Dream Safaris web page are pictures and comments from that trip.
We all agreed that the trip could not have been better. We also agreed that this experience was not something that could be described in words or pictures – it is something you have to experience in person to fully comprehend the majesty of the African wildlife in its natural environment. Upon returning from that first trip, my dream has been to take my family some day. This past January my wife, son, daughter and I were able to make that happen.
On our first day in the Serengeti we are surrounded by the migration. My son raises his camera to take a picture, then turns and asks “How can I capture this in a picture?” I replied “Now you understand why I’ve been saying for four years that it is impossible to fully capture this experience in words or pictures.”
Arranging the trip with Dawn was again a pleasure. Having worked with her four years ago, I knew she would take good care of my family. I had a better feel for locations and distances so it was much easier to discuss options this time. Some highlights from our trip along with pictures follow.
I will start with some people highlights. The Tanzanian people are wonderful – genuinely friendly. On our first day in Arusha we visited with David, the chairman of Usa River village. He enlightened us with some of the challenges faced by the people of his village as well as giving us a tour of a local primary school.
The following day upon arriving in the Central Serengeti we met Francis, our driver/guide. Francis proved to be a wonderful companion for the next eight days. He was always responsive to our requests and from a photographer’s perspective did an excellent job of positioning our vehicle for the best photo experience. He had an engaging laugh and worked hard to provide my family with a very special program! We also enjoyed the dinner time discussions on the life and politics of Tanzania.
Another people highlight occurred upon our arrival at our tent camp on that first night – I met an old friend. Ndeki, our camp manager from my trip four years ago, was again our camp manager for my family’s stay in the tent camp. We immediately recognized each other and exchanged a big hug.
For the rest of our time together he would call me rafiki (friend) and I felt honored to be the friend of such a fine gentleman. The entire staff treated us well with great meals and service. And my wife appreciated the fact that while we could hear animals like hyenas wandering through the camp during the night, we were perfectly safe in our tents.
While driving on safari the next day, Francis answered a call on his cell phone and then passed it to me – David, our driver/guide from four years ago, called to say hello. We were able to talk for a few minutes before losing cell phone service. My son commented after I hung up that I seemed to have friends all over Tanzania! On one of our safari days Francis drove us to the Angata Kiti area in the eastern Serengeti. ADS is one of the few safaris that offers the option to visit this area.
The area is very remote; we only saw one other vehicle during our trip to this area. But we were rewarded with another great people encounter. We met a Maasai chief, Suyani, who led us on an hour and a half walking safari around Nasera Rock in the eastern Serengeti plain. Suyani also let us visit his boma and meet some of his family. With Francis translating for us, Suyani taught us about the life of his Maasai family.
By participating in this ADS offering, all of our lives were enriched with a unique cultural offering. From the lady chef who kidded us that the main dish for the evening was tough old elephant to the Maasai guard who detoured us around the hippos to reach our elevated tent accommodations at Lake Masek to the waiter at Sopa Lodge who was able to speak Spanish with my son, we had many other delightful encounters with Tanzania people.
Of course we returned with numerous wildlife highlights as well from our African Dream Safari. I seem to have very good luck with cheetah encounters on my safaris.
Last time I had the good fortune to witness the extremely rare occurrence of a cheetah mother with six cubs. At 2-3 months old, they seemed most intent on disrupting their mother’s hunting with their play. On the ADS website one year later I picked out a picture by another ADS client showing the mother with the five of her cubs that had survived. She had to be an amazing hunter to provide for that many cubs!
This trip my family was rewarded when Francis discovered a cheetah mother with a cub just over a week old underneath a tree in the south Serengeti. For 40 minutes we watched by ourselves as the cub nursed, napped and played. And we listened to the mother periodically call plaintively for a second cub that never appeared; presumably that cub had not survived. Eventually the mother ambled off across the plain with the surviving cub bouncing along behind. Two ADS trips – two magnificent cheetah encounters.
Ngorongoro Crater is a magical place in the early morning. On our drive into the Crater, the morning started with a newly born zebra foal standing on wobbly legs and occasionally resting against its mother to stay upright. This was especially poignant as in the Serengeti two days earlier we had seen a zebra mother and foal killed by a pack of hyenas while the zebra mother tried to give birth.
As we proceeded onto the Crater floor we encountered several old bull elephants with the largest tusks of any elephants in Africa. While we watched, two elephants engaged in a bonding display by wrapping their trunks around each other’s tusks.
A little bit further on we happened upon six lions, including two adult males, who had just finished feasting on a wildebeest kill. Thirteen hyenas and several jackals kept a close watch looking for an opportunity to snatch a morsel. One of the males, with a stunning dark mane, strolled by our vehicle to a pond for a drink after his feast.
We stopped for breakfast in the Lerai Forest and were entertained by a black faced vervet monkey that scampered from a tree through the open roof hatch of another vehicle, emerging with some breakfast as a reward for his raid. Fortunately Francis knew better than to park our vehicle under that tree.
We continued on first with some baboon entertainment and then encountered a single adult male lion dragging a freshly killed wildebeest across the Crater plains toward a shrubby hillock.
The lion was panting hard with the exertion as it could only drag the wildebeest for 15-20 feet before having to stop and rest for 30-60 seconds. After 25 minutes the lion was finally able to secrete its kill behind some bushes. All of this activity happened before 10 AM in the morning – truly a magical place.
My wife will never forget one other wildlife encounter in Ngorongoro Crater. As she was standing outside our vehicle eating a picnic lunch, a black kite bird swooped down and snatched a piece of sandwich from her hand. After a startled shriek and a quick exam of her hand, we found no serious damage and had another memory to laugh about for years to come.
From the lion on the kopje with butterflies circling its head to the dung beetle cleaning up the plain, each of our wildlife encounters holds a special memory. Without an excellent driver/guide these encounters do not happen.
Both ADS driver/guides I have experienced have been outstanding. And I read the same comments from other clients on the ADS travelogue. We scheduled this safari with African Dream Safaris as a very special family trip. And all of us are grateful to ADS for arranging a trip filled with family memories that will last a lifetime.
Rolf, Virginia, Brian and Katie Jacobson
St. Cloud, Minnesota