Jambo! We’ve recently returned from a trip of a lifetime, a number 1 bucket list item celebrating 3 retirements and a birthday. Thanks to ADS, the adventure was everything we hoped for and more!
Planning for the safari began 2 years before our trip. Since I retired first, the research and details became my project. After checking out several private safari companies, upon meeting with friends that had just returned from an ADS safari, and after speaking on several occasions with Dawn Anderson, we decided that ADS best met our needs. The four of us included amateur photography buffs and two elementary school teachers. Dawn was magnificent in meshing our varied interests and needs. She guided us through every step leading up to our safari.
We elected to travel directly to Tanzania and arrived tired but excited after nearly 30 hours in transit. Faith and Timon were there to meet and greet us, shepherd us through visa lines, and take us to the Mount Meru Resort. We elected to stay 2 nights in order to get some R & R and explore Arusha. The grounds and accommodations were lovely—We wisely opted to get massages. An unexpected surprise was a special dinner under the gazebo with a cake acknowledging the occasion of our retirements. Faith and Timon’s graciousness made our introduction to Tanzania so easy.
The next day we were off to take a short flight to the Serengeti. Francis, our driver/guide, was there to greet us and off we went to the Mara River. On our drive we saw nearly all the wildlife that we had come to see. Mara River Camp was a revelation. From being greeted by the staff with scented towels and refreshing juice to our luxury tents with comfortable furnishings and ensuite bathroom to incredible meals (prepared in a tiny kitchen), we couldn’t believe our good fortune. Conversing with the other guests was delightful. We spent the night listening to the voices of zebra, wildebeest, gazelles, and warthogs as they grazed along our tents and even peeked at them from our “window.”
Onward to the Lobo Valley to gaze upon open plains that are reminiscent of our mid-west. We reveled in its beauty and that of the giant granite kopjes where we spied lions and cheetahs napping. Our next lodging was at Buffalo Tented Lodge—our most luxurious accommodation. Its high elevation provided us with magnificent vistas. The meals were delicious—rivaling the best restaurants back home. The birthday girl was serenaded in both Swahili and English and presented with a yummy birthday cake.
A special highlight was the visit to a Maasai village. We were escorted by Seketo, the chief’s son, who also happens to be employed at Buffalo. Because of its remote location, we had a “private” tour that afforded us much time to see how the proud, hardworking Maasai live. Their homes reminded us of how the Native Americans constructed their homes. Children begin early to tend to goats and cattle or to their younger siblings. I enjoyed participating with the women in their traditional a cappella singing and dancing.
On the drive through the Central Serengeti to the Ngorongoro Highlands we observed in close proximity lions and their cubs and a trio of cheetahs stalking and taking down a zebra. Included were worthwhile stops at the Serengeti Information Center and Oldupai Gorge where James and Mary Leake spent many years uncovering the “Cradle of Mankind.”
Lion’s Paw Tented Camp is ideally situated because it’s nearest the entrance to the Crater. We loved its remoteness and the nice touches to make it warm and cozy—soft blankets (that we used on our drives), heater, and hot water bottles to warm the bed. It was one of our favorite accommodations.
Because of our location, we were one of the first to reach the Crater. In relative isolation, we saw 2 different lion prides – one of which comprised 12—a rare sight to see one so large. We saw lionesses working together to stalk prey and cubs playing mischievously. We saw hippos resting in the green marshland and hundreds of flamingos.
On our drive to the Tarangire, we incorporated a visit to the Foundation for African Medicine & Education (F.A.M.E.), another highlight of our trip. Dr. Frank Artress and his wife, Susan Gustafson, have made it their mission to improve the quality and accessibility to medical care in this underserved community. It is quite inspiring to see what they have built. They couldn’t have been more gracious with their time. To discover that they also hailed from California was quite a coincidence.
We ended our safari exploring the Tarangire and staying at Maramboi Tented Lodge. By this time, unlimited hot water was a real treat! At our final dinner, we were entertained by a singing procession of staff who presented us with a good-bye cake!
Finally, thank you to the ADS staff for matching us with Francis. His enthusiasm and knowledge of the terrain and wildlife and his ability to see and point out animals provided us with an excellent vantage point for viewing and photography. We enjoyed our daily debriefing, planning for the next day’s adventures, and learning more about him. He is a natural teacher and was an integral part of realizing our dream safari.
Paula and Bob S.
Los Angeles, California
Safari Dates: September 2-16, 2014