Mal d’Afrique, or that restless urge one experiences after spending time in Africa to make a return visit, had crept into our souls after our first safari to Kenya and Tanzania in 2007. We found our conversations involving, “…when we return to Africa…” and “…next time….” So it was that we mentioned our desire to return to Africa to our friends, Rick and Jeannine, and a plan was cemented for a return in 2012. We investigated dozens of safari companies, but Africa Dream Safaris came very highly rated. We just cannot adequately express the significance of the choice to opt for a private safari but were clearly reminded of that choice each time we passed the packed caravans of safari vehicles from other companies.
Our adventure began exactly five years to the day after our first safari but could not have been more different. From the moment we landed in Arusha and were whisked through the visa process and customs before most people had even retrieved their bags to the final moments when our driver dragged us kicking and screaming back to the airport, every detail had been thought out by ADS.
Our planning began one year in advance when Lynn, our safari planner, contacted us. Lynn’s enthusiasm for everything Africa and her experience with providing her clients with details before they even realized they needed them, made our planning so easy. She provided us with valuable information to help us better prepare for this wonderful adventure. Her monthly and later weekly updates were eagerly awaited.
Perhaps the absolute highlight of our trip was not the sights, sounds, and smells of Africa that flooded our senses every waking moment—and even some unwaking ones when lions roared throughout the night. Rather, it was our amazing safari guide /driver, Russell. He never ceased to amaze us with his knowledge of wildlife. Not only did he know the habits of the “big five” and where to locate each of them (yes, he did find us a rhinoceros!), but he also pointed out marching army aunts, tiny bejeweled birds, and pug marks on the dirt tracks, each of which became a lesson to us. He was tireless in response to all of our needs.
After a day of jet-lag recovery in Arusha and a sight-seeing tour which included a visit to the ADS sponsored Shanga crafts workshop, we flew from Arusha to Katenga airstrip in the northern Serengeti. During our flight we observed thousands of migrating wildebeests, which looked like lines of tiny ants from the air, and had to be cleared from the runway before we could land. Russell was awaiting our landing and quickly piled us in our vehicle to rush to the Mara River area where the herd would make their crossing.
Our timing was amazing as we arrived to see wildebeests as far as the eye could discern bottled up on the river bank awaiting that urge (or maybe it was a push) that would propel the migration across this challenging crossing. Within minutes of our arrival, as if they had been awaiting us, the first animal crossed followed by the rest of the herd. For the next hour we watched in amazement as the flood of animals made the perilous jump into the dangerous rocks, hungry crocodiles, and swift current to cross. We had a private front row seat to this amazing event of nature. Little were we to know that this would set the precedence for the next twelve days as Russell always managed to have us in the right place at the right time.
We enjoyed the variety of accommodations from lodges, to tented lodges, to the private luxury camp. The tented lodges offered an opportunity to experience a unique mixture of lodge type accommodations and outdoor camping while the lodge at Ngorongoro offered entertainment and high-end accommodations. Yet it was the private luxury camping that ADS provided that was far and above our favorite.
Plopped down in a scenic location surrounded by wildlife and catered by a professional team and equipped with all the comforts of home, it really did put an entirely new perspective on the term “camping out.” Never did we feel closer to nature than listening to the snuffling cape buffalo, the whooping of the hyenas, and the rumbling growls of lions not too far in the distance. Our butler, Kdeva, a Masaai, awoke us with a gentle “Jambo” and a cup of hot Tanzanian coffee and made sure we had plenty of hot water to wash up. We were glad that we had included this in our agenda.
So many photos; so many memories. Words cannot do justice to the sights, sounds, and smells of Africa. The playful cheetah cub practicing his attack skills on a cardboard box, a pride of seventeen lions and lionesses ravaging a cape buffalo carcass, the wild dogs of Tarangire bullying a zebra, and a huge flock of gaudy emerald green yellow-collared love birds flittering across the grass are all images that dominate our thoughts.
Did we cure our Mal d’Afrique? No, we have been back less than a week and we already find our conversations involving, “…when we return to Africa…” and “…next time….” Yes, we are already dreaming of our third safari with Africa Dream Safaris, of course!
Bob and Diane Brodel