This was our second trip with African Dreams Safari’s… and that speaks volumes.
Not only did we pick the same outfit, we picked the same guide. More on that later. We are filmmakers and professional wildlife photographers. On one hand we can be a pretty understandable and forgiving bunch. We realize no one can control the global weather patterns, the rain (or lack of), the conditions of the roads or whether or not the animals “show up” where they are supposed to. But we can also be a pretty demanding group. Because when the weather is good and the animals are there…. we seek perfection… the right light, the right shooting angle, accurate animal information and a guide with eyes as sharp as many of the animals we are seeking.
For these reasons, and others, we reversed our decision to spend our second African safari in Botswana and visited Tanzania again with Africa Dream Safaris. We just chose a different time of the year from our last safari knowing the weather patterns and migration would offer a unique and different opportunity. We were right.
There are, admittedly, a lot of companies doing safaris in Tanzania. Some are good, some aren’t. In my opinion, ADS sits either at the top of the list or right up there with the best. First, there is a hand holding attitude that is very comforting. It’s hard to research a safari from the US. And you have to be careful doing so. Let’s face it, it’s not all that hard to get a hold of some fancy animal photographs, hire a talented writer and create a fancy website. But you really have to dig to get to the core of the what’s important.
For starters, ADS does not put a limit on how far (or where) their guides can take you each day. Many outfits do. That’s an unadvertised fact. In fact, some outfits actually penalize their drivers for exceeding a certain number of allotted kilometers from camp each day and that can really limit your opportunities. This is somewhat of a secret… but its true. We were looking for something different and we found it again with ADS.
The Serengetti is not a zoo and it’s not like Disneyworld. The animals don’t appear on cue. They are nomadic, they move, they hide, they rest in the shade. Just finding them takes eagle eyes (well… actually not, they sometimes end up being 20 feet from your car but you get my drift). Our guide, Francis, is one of the best. College educated, experienced and speaker of many languages, he can find a leopard in a tree that you and I would drive by believing it was just another branch. He’s more of a safari ambassador in my opinion. He also knows “light”… when it’s the best for photography and when its not… and how to maneuver into the best shooting angles.
I also consider him our friend. We met him 4 years ago on our first safari and like many of the guides you will read about he became almost family. It was hard to say goodbye all those years ago. And we had not spoken to him for four years … still, we requested him on this safari. I was not sure he would remember us as the guides make friends with many clients in the bush. But when we stepped off the bush plane in the Serengetti and he saw us… a big, warm, African smile took control of his face and you could see the happy emotion in his eyes. I got a huge bear hug and he said, “AH, Mr. Jeff…. I am very happy today”. It was a touching moment and the start of a great 10 days.
I suppose I could go into a day by day itinerary like many people do on this site, but Africa is much more than that to us and you can read about those experiences from others. First of all, from a wildlife perspective it dwarfs what you will see in many other parts of Africa and that is the reason we chose to Tanzania over Botswana. Not that Botswana would have been a bad choice. But let me give you an example. We are selective photographers who do not pull the trigger on every opportunity we come across…. and there are many opportunities, trust me. Still, between the two of us in our vehicle we shot 11000 photographs on this trip… some of them are represented here. When you go out the first day on Safari you end the day saying… “wow’, today was a good day. We could actually go home now and still have a portfolio of impressive photographs that rival anything you see in a magazine.”
But that’s what’s great about the Serengetti, it continues to surprise you. It continues to produce. Just when you think you’ve got the best lion shot you’ve ever seen… you come across another, or another giraffe, or a cheetah….even more impressive than the one before. Or you become surrounded by 10,000 wildebeest in a cloud of dust. It just keeps getting better. And there is something magical about being out there.
ADS specializes in getting you off the beaten path and away from many of the other vehicles out there. There is nothing worse that coming upon a cheetah kill and have it quickly surrounded by safari vehicles. Save that for Yellowstone National Park. Many times last week we were the only people for as far as the eye could see. And in the Serengetti, the eyes see far. The landscape is forever changing. That alone is worth the price of admission.
I can’t speak for every guide in the ADS lineup… but a quick read through some of the other testimonials on this page bear out the fact that they are all knowledgeable and personable. I can now speak broken Swahili and its been a long time since I laughed as hard as I did sitting around camp at night with Francis. I also know a lot about not only the animals and their behaviors … but about life in Africa. This is like going out on vacation and coming home with a masters degree in wildlife conservation. There was not one animal, one bird, one reptile…. that our guide did not know or elaborate on. And their African accents are so unique you find yourself mimicking it. It’s something not to be missed.
” Custom.” That’s a key word at ADS. You can choose to go “high end” and be waited on or “rough it” in a bush camp and wake up to find lions wandering outside. A nice mix of the two make the experience memorable. That’s how we did ours.
On a personal note I had a good friend pass away 18 months ago. In the end we all wanted to buy him something or do something to for him. All he wanted to do was remember the things we had experienced together…. the memories. That’s what life is really about when you take away the cars, the money, the fancy clothes and all the other stuff we seem to hold so dear. And ADS creates memories… stories…. experiences…. ones you will never forget. That’s what makes Africa Dream Safari’s so special.
And one final note. If you go, you will see just about all of the animals you ever wanted to see… you know the ones…. the ones you dream about seeing. Sure, nothing can be guaranteed, but trust me, you won’t be disappointed. But in our case, something special happened. Our guide reached a little further… and decided to find the elusive Wild Dog, a know rarity in the Serengetti. Something many of the guides have yet to see.
Francis found them at the end of the first day. That’s Africa Dreams.
Go…. Just do it.
Jeff and Ginger