Posts From January 2012

Rolf, Virginia, Brian & Katie Jacobson

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
January 2012

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Our Dream Vacation

When we started planning our first big vacation about a year ago, even before we decided on a destination, we called it our dream vacation of a lifetime. Eventually we narrowed it down to the Serengeti and by a twist of fate ended up using Africa “Dream” Safaris. ADS planned our dream vacation and our guide, Raphael, made it come true.

When we arrived at the airstrip in the Serengeti on the first day about noon we expected to get settled and oriented. Instead we saw more that first day than we expected to see the entire safari. And each day’s adventures seemed to exceed the previous day. The number of sightings of so many different animals was impressive, and I won’t go into detail, but what stays in our memory the most is the vista of migratory animals (wildebeests and zebras) as far as the eye could see in all directions. The Serengeti was beautiful and would have been (almost) worth the trip even without the animals.

Our guide, Raphael, was remarkable. Often we were the first and sometimes only observers at the most interesting sightings. Even when we weren’t the first, Raphael anticipated the animal’s movements and had us in the best position. He was knowledgeable about all the animals, providing insight and answering all our questions. He seemed to enjoy the sightings as much as we did.

I cannot imagine what the safari would have been like without ADS. With Dawn’s guidance we were well prepared. We worked hard to learn all we could and get everything ready and packed within the luggage limits. That was actually part of the fun and anticipation of the trip. Each day we were on the road around 7 AM and returned about 5 PM. All of our lunches and all but two of our breakfasts were on game drives. We are 68 years old and had no trouble standing up to the rigors of the twelve day (ten in the field) safari. But anyone deciding to go on a Serengeti safari should make sure they really want to do it. We did, and it was a dream come true.

We have included some pictures, but pictures cannot do justice to the vast magnitude of this unique area of the earth and the great migration phenomenon.

Stephen and Mariglyn Glenn
Friendswood, TX
January 2012

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Larry & Sandra Shober

We just returned from our incredible Safari to the Serengeti. I started the trip with very high expectations from reading and seeing all the information ADS provided. Much to my satisfaction, my high expectations were met and even exceeded in every category.

From the time we landed until we left we were guided and briefed every step of the way. There are times when marketing paints an unreal picture to promote sales. Not the case with ADS. We found no exaggerations in any of the information. In fact it was very thorough, we were prepared, thank you.

To try to describe the Serengeti and all the animals bankrupts my vocabulary! All my life I’ve seen pictures, stories and video of the Serengeti that were great but it’s not like being there where you can feel it, smell it, hear it, and become part of it. There are no words to properly describe it for me.

I’m sure your guides are all good but we had Arnold and I don’t see how you could get a better one. He knew where to go to find the animals and anticipated our every need. He was pleasant, knowledgeable and fun. “Hakuna matata!”

Our camps were all different but each had a charming character all of their own. They also had very efficient and friendly employees.

I am extremely pleased that we chose Africa Dream Safaris for our “someday” adventure.

Larry and Sandra Shober
Berlin, Pennsylvania
January 2012

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Grateful to See So Much . . .

Before going to Africa through Africa Dream Safaris, we read over and over from testimonials how wonderful everyone’s experiences had been. It just seemed to be too good to be true. But we are now believers! We are thankful to have had the opportunity to go to Africa and experience the sights and sounds of such a beautiful and pristine place. From the moment we met David, our guide, in the Seronera Valley, we knew we were in for a treat. David had an incredible knowledge of the animals and geography, keen eyes and a sense of where the game was.

People ask, what was your favorite animal or experience? We enjoyed it all! The animals were amazing, but so was the scenery. The Serengeti Plains stretch in front of you and seem to just go on forever. It was just breath taking! Our favorite sightings were of three black rhinos, a mother cheetah and her cubs, and the endless troops of goofy baboons! We could sit for hours watching the hippos at the Retina Pool or the multiple age pride of lions playing under a shade tree. The elephants were fascinating to watch, from the grace of the adults to the little ones just learning to forage and eat.

The sheer magnitude of animals of the Great Migration in the Hidden Valley was magnificent! We drove for 2 hours in a seemingly endless sea of wildebeest, zebras, gazelles and birds!

In the Ngorongoro Crater, we listened as hyenas called to one another – come here!!! Building from just three to eleven, they banded together to work through the wildebeest and zebras in hopes of an evening meal. Fascinating!

We must also mention the peace and tranquility that we enjoyed. Yes, we were up and out most mornings by 6:00 a.m. and stayed out on game drives until after 6:00 p.m. each day, but we found so much joy in watching the animals coexist with each other in the quiet beauty of the bush.

If you by chance stay at the Seronera Sametu Camp, you will certainly enjoy being cared for by Jonas and his staff. “Good Morning”, will be his gentle wakeup call right outside your tent while bringing you hot coffee and tea. His personal attention to our needs was such a treat and made this camp a truly special place!

On our last night at the Lake Manyara Serena Lodge we were having a quiet dinner when we noticed a commotion coming from the kitchen area. The staff were parading and singing and we assumed someone was having an anniversary or birthday. As the marchers came closer we began to get the feeling that we we the intended recipients of their good cheer! Turns out that David had treated us to a farewell dessert cake! We enjoyed a portion and sent the remainder to the buffet. It was a nice gesture and expression of thoughtfulness on his part!

Also, I just wanted to touch on the airport check in at JRO. It was excellent. We entered the arrival area and met our host who tended to our every need. She even had the blue cards completed and we were quickly checked through immigration and customs. I did feel somewhat guilty being whisked to the front of the line and being processed so quickly. Then the meet and greet staff welcomed us and took us from there to Arusha in short order. A very nice way to end a long day of travel!

Finally, a note of appreciation to both you and Beverley. You two planned a spectacular trip and I wouldn’t have changed a thing! The whole trip just seemed to fit so nicely together. Starting in the tent camp with it’s small, intimate setting and progressing south through the Serengeti and on to more luxurious accommodations of the Ndutu and Ngorongoro Lodges, it was just perfect! We appreciate your knowledge and expertise and your responding to all the little detailed questions that we had!

All the best to you and everyone at ADS and again and thank you for your part in our incredible trip!

Harry and Beveryl Crosby
Staunton, Virginia
January 2012

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Wildebeest Calving Has Begun!

Every green season on the Southern Serengeti Plains (either during January or February depending upon certain factors) one of the most amazing wildlife spectacles occurs when the largest mass of migrating animals on the planet gives birth. But, let’s back up for a minute to see where it all began.

The annual wildebeest breeding season or ‘rut’ takes place when the migration moves off the plains in May. During a three period around 90% of the mature cows are bred. It is anarchy on the Serengeti Plains during this time with the mass movement of animals combined with the rut. Territorial bulls round up cows and stake out temporary territories in an all out effort to breed with as many females as possible. Rival males fight by bashing heads to gain access to neighboring territories.

Eight and a half months later the cows drop their calves (roughly 400,000 animals) on the open Serengeti plains to the south and east of the park. Unlike most other animals that seek cover when giving birth, pregnant wildebeest gather on the open plains and synchronize their birthing withing a two to three week window. No other herbivore in the Serengeti has such a pronounced birth spike. The goal is perhaps to all at once ‘flood the market’ with hundreds of thousands of new born calves in hopes that the predators can only capture a limited number before becoming satiated.  After about 7 minutes calves can stand and after about two days they can out distance hyenas.

The calving came early this year due to the higher then usual precipitation and the early onset of the rains, which created an abundance of nutritional grazing and standing water (both ideal conditions for nursing mothers).

In some years, such as this season, the calving starts as early as mid January while in drought years we have seen the wildebeest delay the birthing until March when conditions were more favorable. In one year we actually saw the wildebeest giving birth in the Central Serengeti Woodlands (a good 30 miles north of their traditional birthing grounds on the South Serengeti Plains. The wildebeest is an incredibly adaptable animal. It is this quality along with its ability to migrate great distances that makes it the most successful animal in the Serengeti.

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Laurie & Steven Cohen

Trying to summarize our experience, much less select photos, is impossible…I am guessing you have heard this before!

It was just incredible. ADS and its people are incredible – Mathias, Emanuel, and Thompson…all exceptional people. The trip was flawless. I almost don’t want to send this because each time we rewrite it, we get to dwell on it over and over again. There is no better feeling than how we felt at 6:00 am every morning, climbing in to our “traveling home”, opening the windows up and smelling the smell of the bush…nothing will ever compare.

Warmest regards,

Laurie and Steven Cohen
Indian Rocks Beach, Florida
January 2012

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Lion Pride Surrounds ADS Vehicle

Check out this video of a ‘curious’ lion pride on the floor of the Ngorongoro Crater. The relatively small crater floor (roughly circular and about 10 miles in diameter) is almost a self enclosed ecosystem and contains plenty of grazing and browse along with permanent water sources. The resulting herbivore population (mainly zebra, wildebeest, buffalo and gazelle) supports 3 – 4 lion prides whose individuals rarely leave the crater floor for the duration of their lives.

Due to constant exposure to tourist vehicles, generation after generation of lions have become habituated to safari vehicles. While game driving the floor of the crater on a warm and sunny day, it is a common occurrence to have several lions retreat to the shade of your vehicle. However, having lions actively and curiously interacting with the vehicle as shown in the video is certainly very unusual but it does demonstrate why a few years back the park authorities banned open sided vehicles from from entering the crater.

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Safari to Tanzania – January 2012

Well, we are finally back from Tanzania!  What an amazing trip this was, and what a special way to celebrate the New Year.  I feel rich!  I have come back with a treasure trove of precious memories, as tangible to me as a suitcase of souvenirs.  The color of the Serengeti sky is still fresh in my memory, along with the warm feel of the African sun against my face and the smell of earth and rain in the air.  I can still hear the grunting sounds of a thousand wildebeest all around me, interspersed with the distinctive brays of hundreds of conversing zebra.

As much as I love coming home after a long journey, it is always a bittersweet return.  I already miss the solitude of the open plains and the delightful decadence of losing complete track of time.  Even knowing what day of the week seems like superfluous information out there in the African wilderness, unnecessary and too tedious to track in a place where time is measured only by the daily rising and setting of the African sun.  A stark contrast to the demands of daily life here in the US!  But the memories shine on in my mind like polished gems, each one sparkling with the colors, sounds and feel of Tanzania’s wilderness.

Day 1:  The first day we arrived in the Serengeti was a joyous one!  Our plane landed at the Seronera airstrip and we met our guide Arnold, who greeted us with a beaming smile and a big hug that exuded all the genuine warmth and graciousness that is seemingly inherent to all Tanzanians.  With a few minutes of exchanging pleasantries we were off in the Landcruiser!

I so love the beginning of a safari, ripe with unknown adventures immediately ahead of us.  It certainly didn’t take long for them to start unfolding!  After initial sightings of large elephant herds, buffalo and giraffe, we found our first leopard of the trip!  A beautiful male leopard lounging in a sausage tree along the Seronera River.  Shortly afterwards, we spotted two others, one in a nearby tree and one in the tall grass.  Three leopards!!!  We concluded the three were together, perhaps an adult female with her two subadult cubs.  The female treated us to a very close encounter, walking through a stretch of short grass straight towards our vehicle and getting quite close to us before melting into the long grass near the river.  What a treat!

Day 2:  On the second day of our safari, we saw many (many) more elephants – huge matriarch elephants, teenie tiny baby elephants, young adults and all sizes of teenager elephants, as well as some large bull elephants with impressive tusks.

We also had many sightings of many gazelles, warthogs, baboons, klipspringer and many different varieties of beautiful birds, including an interesting interaction of a lilac breasted roller battling with a large dung beetle!

One of the most memorable sights was a huge python slowly inching its way across the road in the Lobo Valley.  I’m amazed at how slow and lethargic these giant beasts seem to be on a casual encounter, but still knowing they are capable of lighting quick speed when they are hunting their prey.  I was glad we weren’t on the menu!

An impressive sighting for sure as pythons are rare to see, but the animal sighting that took the cake for me was back at the Seronera Valley when a gorgeous female leopard walked right up to our vehicle and rubbed her head against the front bumper of the Landcruiser in a move that was not unlike my own domestic housecat at home when she rubs up against my leg looking for affection.  It was amazing to be so close to such an elusive and beautiful creature!!!

We had an appointment with the onsite researcher for the Serengeti Lion Project at their research station, Daniel Rosengren.  It was a real pleasure to meet him!  We discussed recent activity of the Serengeti Lions, especially our own “adopted” prides, as well as the challenges and successes of their ongoing camera trap study.  We are excited to get the periodic lion reports going again.  More on this later!  We also met briefly with Helen, the onsite cheetah researcher, who lives in a house nearby and currently writes quarterly cheetah reports for Africa Dream Safaris.  It is a real honor to be involved with these dedicated research projects, we so admire the hard work they are doing to understand and preserve the precious wildlife of the Serengeti.

We drove through a huge herd of Cape Buffalo on our way back to Sametu camp, and were treated to an especially beautiful Serengeti sunset along the way.  What a day!

Day 3:   Today we launched into an early morning game drive to one of my most favorite places in the entire Serengeti ecosystem – the Gol Kopjes.  The Gol Kopjes consist of a wide expanse of open plains in the Eastern part of the Serengeti ecosystem.  Endless plains spilling out to the horizon in all directions, broken up only by “islands” of rocks spaced several hundred meters apart, or “kopjes” as they are called, which are simply large piles of granite boulders, all shapes and sizes, which are piled on top of one another in impossible positions.  The nooks and crannies where the boulders intersect make cozy homes for all sorts of creatures, including lion and cheetah dens.

We saw several gazelle grazing the short green grass that is characteristic of this region before finally spotting our first cheetah!  She was “in a hunting mood” as our guide Arnold articulated.  She certainly did look like she was on a mission, trotting through the short grasses for several yards, stopping periodically to lay down and “roll”, a way of “stretching her muscles” Arnold explained, as any top athlete would need to do.  She had spotted a lone gazelle in the distance.  Our guide positioned the vehicle so we could watch the action ensue.  The cheetah approached the gazelle carefully, stopping and crouching when the gazelle looked towards her and stalking quickly closer when the gazelle would look the other way.  In heart pounding anticipation we watched as she finally got close enough to commit and launched her full-speed assault, running towards the startled gazelle at full throttle!

The chase took only a few moments.  The gazelle spotted the cheetah just before it was too late, and zigzagged herself away from the cheetah’s deadly paws – just inches away – and spurted off to safety while the cheetah gave up and sat panting in the dust.  We weren’t sure whether we should be happy for the gazelle who could live another day or sad for the exhausted cheetah, who had worked so hard but would still be forced to go for another day without a meal.  The day closed with sundowners around the campfire at Sametu.  What an incredible day!

Day 4:  Today we headed south towards the Ndutu woodlands and the Great Migration. We perused past the Maasai Kopjes marsh and found a lone lion cub (we were sure there were more lions in the marsh grass, we just couldn’t see them!), before we headed down 7 hills road towards Simba Kopjes.  We found a serval cat stalking mice near the gravel pits next to the main road, which was a very nice find as servals are rare to see!  As we passed through the Triangle (a large expanse of open plain that lies between Naabi Hill and Ndutu), we entered the first big herds of the Great Migration.  Wow.  Countless migratory animals, wildebeest, zebra and gazelle, were on all sides of the vehicle and spanned for miles to the horizon, well past the distance our human eyes could see.  The sheer mass of animals was nothing short of staggering.

We were driving and enjoying the views when our guide suddenly exclaimed with excitement “Hey!  Look at that gazelle!  She’s birthing!!!”  Sure enough, a lone Grant’s gazelle stood by herself in the distance.  At first glance, all seemed normal, but upon a bit of closer observation it became apparent something unusual was going on.  Her stance seemed a bit awkward, and you could see something (which we were able to identify later as the head of the baby gazelle) starting to emerge.   We watched the entire birth from start to finish.

Over the course of 45 minutes or so the gazelle struggled and strained with great effort until the baby’s two front legs appeared.  The mother gazelle laid down and finally gave complete birth to a beautiful gazelle fawn!  We watched in quiet wonder and awe as the baby gazelle bonded with his mother and then quickly struggled to his own two feet. He staggered very close to our vehicle before collapsing from exhaustion into the grass after his first big walk in the new world!  We left the two together, mother and baby, and were very touched by the beauty of the miracle we had just witnessed.  Before departing, we named the tiny gazelle “Tuemeni”, which means “Hope” in Swahili, or “To Breath”.  When observing the Great Migration and such massive numbers of animals together at one time, it can sometimes be easy to forget how special each beautiful animal is as a unique individual.

Later on that same day, we had another special encounter with a baby zebra that is worth it’s own post in the future, so stay tuned for more on this later!  We closed the day with countless sightings of many other animals including lions, cheetah, and some adorable bat-eared fox kits.  What an incredible day!

Day 5:  Today was filled with countless animal sightings, including giant herds of migration, lions and cheetahs!  One highlight was seeing a mother lioness drowsing in a the low branches of an acacia tree, accompanied by her tiny and adorable 5 week old cub!

But the most special sighting of all was watching a coalition of 3 cheetah brothers hunt.  I will write a separate posting to describe this later, it was a very memorable event and one that I won’t soon forget, so stay tuned for a future post and pictures!

Otherwise we saw several lions squabbling over a zebra carcass, a tawny eagle with at bat-eared fox kill, and the cutest most tiny baby warthogs ever.  Yes, in spite of their less than appealing adult appearance, baby warthogs ARE cute!  This was a really incredible day.

Day 6:  We left the lodge early in the morning to game drive the Ndutu plains, looking for the 3 cheetah brother we had spotted and watched hunt the day before.  Unfortunately we never did find them again, but still the game drive did not disappoint!  In addition to spotting a ratel very close to our vehicle (aka “honeybadger”, which are extremely rare to see during the day), we had many other exciting animal sightings!

We found a huge pack of cackling hyenas who had just chased 4 lions away from their breakfast, which was the remains of a recently captured wildebeest. The 4 lions scampered away, casting spiteful glances back at the motley crew, while a flurry of hyena teeth and claws absorbed the rest of the wildebeest carcass.  The hyenas cackled and argued and crunched bones in a chaotic frenzy while a parade of different characters, marabou storks, jackals, and all types and sizes of vultures, arrived one by one to join their grisly party.  We watched them for a while as the lions made their way towards another huge herd of migration.  We watched the lions halfheartedly hunt until they gave up to rest underneath a tree.  Their bellies were full and it was obvious they were not hungry, and they seemed content to let the migratory herds graze in peace for the moment.

We found another pride of lions near the Ndutu marsh – large males, gorgeous females and several sub adult cubs.  One of the young males came and laid in the shade of our Landcruiser for a very “up close and personal” encounter!

As we drove along the shores of LakeNdutu, we were lucky enough to observe a large herd of wildebeest and zebra gallop across the glittering waters of Lake Ndutu!   Epic.

We enjoyed our last Serengeti lunch in the shade of an acacia tree and relished our last few moments in the bush.  Sadly, the time had finally come for us to leave the Serengeti.  My heart filled with bittersweet emotion.  The unknown adventures waiting for us at the beginning of the trip had been played out now, but in their place a treasure trove of memories remained!  I felt a deep satisfaction for all we had experienced, but a deeper longing to return to Tanzania had already taken hold of me, and I’m left wondering what new and exciting adventures await us next time!

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Bush Report – January 16, 2012

Driver Guide: Wilfred Fue
Date: January 16, 2012

Plenty of Wildebeest in the South Serengeti around Ndutu Woodlands through Kusini Plains as well as Matiti Plains. Amazing numbers of zebras around the area of the The Triangle and Gol Kopjes. Many gazelles from Naabi Hill through Gol Kopjes and further east to Lemuta Hills. All these migratory ungulates are being followed by the carnivores especially lion, cheetah and spotted hyenas. As it has been quite dry the last week in the southern and eastern Serengeti plains, the migration may move north and west off the plains and to the Central Serengeti woodlands including Moru Kopjes.

The Central Serengeti was very exiting for the big cats especially leopards and lions. Resident animals were plentiful including hippos, buffaloes, giraffes, elephants, crocodiles, reedbuck and waterbucks.

Sparse but good sightings in the North Serengeti especially fore the rare rock python near Lobo Swamp moving out to avoid the high population of elephants who were drinking and wallowing.

The most unusual sighting encountered was a lone lioness near Sametu Camp that had just killed an aardvark – one of the extremely rare nocturnal animals. We also encountered 5 lions on the Kusini plains that successfully stalked and killed a wildebeest at a small waterhole as it came to drink water.

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My Strong Recommendation to Trust ADS

Hi Dawn,

I wanted to thank you. The trip was just amazing, and we would not have changed a thing. From starting with the Private Luxury Camp, to finishing at the Ngorongoro Sopa – it was just a perfect flow. Wilfred is amazing, and we have already given several recommendations for ADS and Wilfred (he is a gem – I am sure you know that). The vehicle was much more comfortable than hoped – I had zero back issues. We had lots of spice in the trip, from getting stuck axel deep, (and amazed at how fast 5 guides were there to help – just perfect and additional experience/stories that we will laugh about for a lifetime.

Your guidance and ability to gain our trust was a blessing – you are good at what you do. ADS under promised (though it did not seem so at the time we booked) and over delivered – and I will give you the best gift I can – my strong recommendation to trust ADS for your once in a lifetime Africa safari.

Fred, Denise, Debie and Guy
Bisbee, Arizona
January 2012

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Susan & Donn Live from the bush!!

Hi Michael & Sharon,

I just wanted to let both of you know that John (our guide) is doing an amazing job taking care of us. He is very interesting to talk to and he knows so much about the animals and the serengeti. Thank you for connecting us.

We will send lots of photos your way when we return.


Hello friends and family,

Today (January 11th) is the first day I have had access to a computer since I’ve been on safari so thought I would take advantage of the opportunity and say hello.

We have had an unbelievably amazing time while on safari for the past six days. The nice thing about coming this time of the year is everything is green and the animals all look extremely healthy. Most of the females are pregnant, but several are also giving birth.

One of many highlights was that I got to watch a Zebra help her newborn take its first steps. We were sitting right in the middle of the migrating herd where there were literally millions of wildabeasts, gazzelles, zebras, etc. and as we were driving through the herds a Zebra gave birth right next to us. She cleaned the baby and kept nudging it to stand up. When the baby first stood up it fell back down. After about three tries the baby could finally stay up on its own wabbly little legs. So sweet!

We’ve seen several prides of lions and two very big male lions. One pride of lions (6 cats total plus one cub) were at a watering hole following their lunch. They were so tired and full from hunting and eating that they couldn’t be bothered with us being around. As the mother was cleaning up her cub she started roaring and out of the bushes comes daddy running to his pride. It was another awesome sight to see the family reunite. Our guide told us that sometimes the male lion doesn’t see his ‘pride’ for up to 10 days while they are out hunting. Apparently he stays back and let’s them do all the work and then finds them so he can also eat. When he finally catches up with them they are all very happy to see each other and they rub and nudge for several minutes.

We’ve only seen two leopards and they have been in trees off the road.
They are apparently more difficult to find because they hunt at night and sleep during the day.

We had a picnic lunch next to three cheetah brothers the other day.
They were knapping around a tree, in the shade and looked up at us enough times so we could get some really good pictures. They could also care less that we were within feet of them.

At one of our camping sites (luxury camping sites) we listened to the lions roaring to each other during the night while we watched a huge buffalo eat grass right in front of our porch.

The elephants are huge and plentiful and lots of babies following the mommies around. Same with the giraffes. Lots if hippos….which are my least favorite because they are absolutely disgusting.

While going through the various sections of the huge migrating herds we see all of the predators, especially the hyenas. They are my second least liked animal because they pick on the young:-(

We are looking forward to Donnie & Kathy joining us tomorrow (Jan12th) and spending the next four days with us. I’ve sent everyone postcards but I have not a clue as to when those will arrive.

The serengeti is breathtakingly beautiful and the animals are all very trusting of the vehicles because they have learned through the years that they truly are protected from humans harming them. It is so nice to see them in these endless plains of food and water.

Donn has taken lots of pictures which we will enjoy sharing with everyone. Hope all is well on the homefront.

Cheers from the serengeti, Mom/OM/Susan

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A Lion Ate My Tire Cover

When driver-guides return from the bush at the conclusion of each safari, one of the first things we do is to inspect and service their vehicle and begin prepping it for the next safari trip. We often hear the most interesting stories when a damaged part needs to be replaced (the equivalent to the ‘my dog ate my homework’ story).

Well, a few days ago one of our friendly guides named Arnold came through our doors at the conclusion of his most recent safari. He immediately said he needed his brand new tire cover replaced because his was attacked and eaten by a lion. Everyone kind of laughed it off as just another tall tale from the bush. However, apparently this was exactly what happened!

A special thanks to Tom Poole and his family who just returned from their December safari for sending us this video yesterday to substantiate our guide’s wild claim of tire cover eating lions. Tom – we hope you enjoyed your holiday safari with ADS!

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Bush Report – December 2011

The large wildebeest herds that were previously ranging the eastern Serengeti plains from Naabi Hill through Gol and Barafu Kopjes have shifted south over the last couple of weeks. Though there are still some scattered herds in the Triangle area around Naabi Hill, the bulk of the Migration is now concentrated in the deepest southern regions of the Serengeti Ecosystem including the Matiti Plains, which are located in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area about 10 miles southwest of the Lake Ndutu/Lake Masek area (Ndutu Lodge, Lemala Ndutu and Lake Masek Camps). There are also some scattered herds on the Kusini Plains.

This season we were all surprised with the early onset of the rains and hence the southern Migration, which started a full two months ahead of time in early October (as opposed to early December). The showers continued through November and December and the entire Serengeti and Ngorongoro Ecosystem is a brilliant emerald green. The last week has been dry and sunny and perhaps signals the start of general drying out period. Let’s hope not as if the plains dry, the migration will disperse back into the woodlands and game viewing, in general, will suffer for at least the plains animals. Remember the old Serengeti adage is ‘rain means game’ so lets keep our fingers crossed that at least some precipitation continues through the rest of the green season.

To provide a better understanding of the amazing transformation the Serengeti Ecosystem has undertaken over the last couple of months, see below for two pictures taken from the Ngorongoro Crater view point with the first one take a few weeks ago and the second one take a few months ago. What a difference a little rain makes!

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