I have been dreaming of going on an African Safari for most of my life. It took me almost 50 years to make that dream into a reality, and now I can hardly believe it is over.
I feel so blessed that this adventure was shared with my husband Lance, and my two daughters Chelsea (15) and Haley (11). We are all crazy animal lovers and all interested in learning about new cultures. This trip could not have been any more ideal for our family. I have to say that Dawn helped us to plan the perfect itinerary and we loved every minute of it!
Our adventure started in Arusha where we had the incredible opportunity to visit the St. Jude school. We spent the day visiting classes, eating lunch with the children, playing games, and learning all about this wonderful school which provides an opportunity for the most impoverished students to get a superior education. At the end of the day, we rode the bus home with a young student- Jennifa and visited her home.
We were overwhelmed as all of her friends, family and neighbors greeted us with songs and cheering. We were invited into her humble home for tea and snacks and talked with her parents (through and English translator). We were almost in tears when we left and we all hugged and cried as we told them we would like to sponsor their daughter in school this year.
The next day we flew off into the Serengeti on a small plane. We landed in the Grumeti air strip and were greeted by Petro our cheerful Safari Guide. He gave both my girls the biggest hug and said that we would have a great time together. Immediately upon leaving the airstrip we saw hundreds of wildebeasts and dozens of baboons. We were so excited to start our journey deep into the Serengeti.
On the ride to our first lodge- we saw giraffes, zebras and dozens of other animals. It felt like a dream. We arrived at the Mbalageti Tented lodge and were greeted with fresh juice and cold cloths to wipe our faces. We could not get over our luxury accommodations. Our family tent was like a small palace with an expansive deck looking out into the wilderness. We cooled off in the pool and took a nap before dinner. The buffets were all fabulous and it was fun to chat with other guests about their safari experiences.
The next day we got to see our first lion pride and spotted a beautiful leopard and even a cheetah. We spent time watching the hippos at the Retina pool. It was mating season so we saw two male hippos fighting, we even saw some pink babies and watched the hippos wallowing and grunting in the mud.
The Four Seasons Lodge, our next stop was like stepping into a travel magazine. We had fun at the beautiful pool where we could watch the elephants come drink at the watering hole. At one point- there were 37 elephants surrounding the area and even a one week old elephant baby that had been born on the property the week before. The staff there (and in all the lodges) were so kind and helpful. One morning a baboon visited us on our balcony. Haley thought that was so funny!
We continued our game drives and could not wait to see what the day would bring. The great migration of wildebeests and zebras was amazing to watch throughout. Petro, of course was so knowledgeable about the animals and we admired his respect and love for them. Lance and I chatted with him about Tanzanian culture, history and life. We all became great friends. He called Haley, my youngest the Safari boss and he teased Chelsea about her music. We learned about his family as well and I even got to speak with his wife on the phone.
We headed off to the Ngorongoro Crater and stopped at a Masaai village for a couple of hours which was truly a highlight for me. We were greeted by a the chief’s son (who spoke English.) We danced together, toured the village and got to see the boma huts where they live. We learned about their life and even visit the small school made of sticks. The children were so interested in us and we showed them pictures on our camera. We sang to them and gave each one a high five. It was AMAZING! I think it gave Chelsea and Haley a new appreciation of our life in the States.
We headed down into the crater and were hoping to see the elusive rhino. We lucked out and were able to find one (a bit in the distance) and watched him for some time. The Lion’s Paw tented camp on top of the crater was magical. We felt like we were in Avatar with all the lush trees. There were only 6 tents and we happened to be the only ones staying there that night. We were treated like royalty. We got to eat dinner together with Petro and visited with the staff at Lion’s Paw.
The next morning, as we headed into the crater we were fortunate to come upon a male lion lying in the road. We were in awe of this majestic creature. A few hundred yards away- his harem of 6 lionesses were planning their attack on a small herd of zebra. We watched them spread out and slowly, slowly creep along in the tall grass until they were close enough to charge. It was so exciting to watch!! The zebra were faster than we imagined and got away! Phew…
After a few more hours surveying the crater, seeing hyenas, mammoth elephants, hundreds of flamingos in the salty lake and dozens of other birds. We decided to make our way to Gibbs Farm. This was our last stop and it was a wonderful retreat for 3 nights after a week of game drives. We spent our time in Gibbs Farm sitting out on the lawn chairs, picking vegetables in the 9 acre garden, drinking coffee and relaxing. We also had a chance to tour the small nearby town and visit an orphanage. It was a great way to end our Safari experience. The last night the staff brought us a cake and sang to us in Swahili.
I feel so sad that it’s all over now, But these memories will last a lifetime. Thank you so much to African Dream Safari especially to Dawn for planning this fabulous trip for us to Petro for guiding us through the Serengeti with care and fun, to all the fabulous staff at the lodges who made us feel like special guests and the Tanzanian people for sharing your beautiful country with us and especially for your warm smiles!
Stephanie, Lance, Chelsea and Haley E.
May 27, 2014 to June 5, 2014