Words and pictures will never quite express our feelings and memories from our recent trek to Tanzania. From the very first contact with Africa Dream Safaris, with our safari specialist, Dawn Anderson, to the final trip to the airport to go (sadly) home, every detail was attended to. Not only were our questions answered in a timely manner, but they were answered with full explanations which better helped us to prepare for the safari.
We began talking about the trip in January of 2013, making the final commitment in April to go on our trip in late September of the same year to coincide with our 30 year anniversary and our son’s plan to study abroad at the University of Dar es Salaam. We began our trip with a two day extension to spend some time in the Mount Kilimanjaro area. We flew from Dar es Salaam (where we had been visiting with our son) to Arusha on Friday, Sept. 27, 2013.
We were greeted warmly by ADS staff and whisked up to Ndarakwai Ranch. While there we enjoyed the stunning views of Mt. Kilimanjaro, a walking safari, a night game drive, and a day hike excursion on the Shira Trail. The food was superb and the accomodations were delightful, including the nightly visit of the bush baby to the dining tent! On Sunday we left the ranch to travel back to Arusha for shopping at the Cultural Heritage Center and a one night stay at the beautiful Mt. Meru resort. ADS staff picked us up on Monday morning and transported us to the Arusha airport for our early morning departure to the Serengeti. At last, our long awaited safari was beginning!
Our driver/guide, Claude, met us as we got off the plane, quickly introduced himself, gave us traditional Maasai gifts as anniversary gifts, and helped us with our luggage. Within minutes we were settled comfortably in our safari vehicle and had entered a land full of animals only seen in zoos before. Our first stop was at the Mara River to catch the very tail end of a wildebeest crossing. We would end up being entertained both this day and the next as we watched the herds gather at the very edge for quite some time, only to change their minds and disperse and regather later in the day.
Our first day of safari was quite successful as we saw a partial river crossing, lions, elephants, giraffes, zebras, hippos, a cheetah with two young cubs, and countless birds and antelope of various species. We stayed the first night (Monday) at Lemala Kuria Hills, which was a place of abundant beauty. We were surprised during dinner with an anniversary cake with our names on it and it was presented with a song by the kitchen/dining staff!
Our safari continued with a two night stay at Buffalo Springs Camp. During the next two days, the wonders of the Serengeti continued to reveal themselves as we saw a rhino with a young baby, a cheetah just after she had killed an oribi, a lion pride of 11 lions, and continued abundant sightings of zebras, giraffes, elephants, wildebeest, and water buffalo.
During our two nights (Tuesday and Wednesday) at Buffalo Springs we enjoyed a walking safari to the top of a hill behind the camp, a night game drive, and a traditional bush dinner served from an overlook area away from the main dining area. The food was delicious and the hospitality extended was remarkable. We felt as if we were personal friends/guests of Mark and Neil rather than international travelers. On Thursday we visited the local Maasai village before beginning our drive to the Seronera Sametu Camp. The village visit was both fun and educational and we came away with a renewed appreciation for the Maasai traditions and work ethic.
As we drove to the Seronera Sametu camp, where we would spend the next two nights (Thursday and Friday) we continued to see a great number of zebras, giraffes, elephants, water buffalo, hippos, and various antelope and birds. Jonas, and the staff at the Sametu camp, were very attentive and excited to hear about the things we had seen.
On Friday we were thrilled to watch a mother leopard with two young cubs and a recent kill. It wasn’t long before the mother and one young ran off but we were able to watch the other cub eat the kill for quite some time. Eventually a baboon family ventured into the area and chased off the last cub who dropped the meat and ran up a different tree. This whole event was thrilling to watch.
On Saturday we departed the Sametu camp with the desire to see an adult male lion – this was about the only thing we had not seen at this point. It wasn’t long before Claude was able to follow the tracks to a grasslands area and one beautiful male lion popped us as we were driving by. It was almost surreal how he just raised up at the perfect time as he was completely hidden in the grass prior to popping up. As we stayed and watched him, we discovered that there were another 15 lions also hidden in the grass. As we stayed and watched this beautiful pride, all 16 lions moved about and we were able to enjoy this in the quiet beauty of the early morning.
From there we ventured to the Oldubai Gorge and the Ngorongoro Crater and a one night stay (Saturday) at Lion’s Paw Camp. The crater was unbelievaby beautiful and filled with abundant wildlife viewings. On Sunday morning we were able to watch the drama unfold as two packs of hyenas enclosed on a water buffalo herd, killing one of it’s young. It was a back and forth fight as the hyenas would attack the baby and the adults would then chase the hyenas off. The hyenas would come back, attack again, only to be chased off once more. This lasted for over an hour, until the baby water buffalo was too badly injured and the adults were too exhausted to continue the fight.
From there we traveled to Lake Manyara and finally back to Arusha. We had a day room at the Mt. Meru Resort, a pre-arranged dinner at 5:00 and a 5:30 departure for the airport. The ADS staff saw us safely to the airport check in. Although we have many great memories and pictures from the trip, it is hard to summarize them in a short article – we felt we could have written a book!
A large part of the success of this trip goes to our driver/guide, Claude. He was attentive to our every need and desire, was excited to teach us about the wildlife and vegetation of the Serengeti. He provided us with wonderful picnic areas and he was able to use his knowledge to find the wildlife away from the other safari vehicles. This luxury of being able to view the wildlife privately and for extended periods of time was a huge bonus for us. All in all, it was the trip of a lifetime!
Alice and Mark P.
Safari Dates: September 27, 2013 to October 6, 2013