I have just returned from my 4th trip to Tanzania through ADS, and every time I am fortunate enough to visit this beautiful country, I am treated to a whole new and exciting experience! This trip was no exception!
First off, I should say that every time I go, I try to take people along with me people who have been dreaming their whole lives of visiting a place like the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater – and I cannot express to you the joy that comes from watching them see for the first time the amazingly raw and wild beauty only life on the open plains of Africa can offer.
On this trip, we started off spending our first day in Arusha, going to visit the School of St. Jude (an AMAZING place!) and to do a little shopping at the Cultural Heritage Shopping Center. This time I broke down and decided to buy some Tanzanite! Because the off season in Tanzania is so quiet (not as many tourists) , we were treated to quite a long lesson on the qualities of Tanzanite by the owner of the shop – based on my past experiences, this was a rare treat indeed, and which helped “seal the deal.”
After two restful nights at the African Tulip, we left early to fly into the Serengeti. Our short flight was amazing! We had a Tanzanian owner of several lodges on our flight, and so the pilot flew us over some of his lodges and close to the active volcano on the way. It was the best flight I have ever had in that area, and we got some great pictures!
And now for our safari…Oh, the magical Serengeti! Going to this special place allows one to literally get lost in time, as one can easily get caught up in the natural rhythm of life on the savanna. It is a beautiful thing when one can forget time, so as to simply float through the week without giving a second thought to all the stresses we have left behind in our normally “time driven” lives back home – even if it is for only one week.
I think that is my favorite part: rolling out of bed every day around 5:15, leaving the comfort and warmth of our wonderful accommodations to catch the first, early morning light, surrounded by animals. NEVER has it been so EASY to get up so early, because EVERY time I have gone on safari, the most magical moments tend to happen within the golden hours between 6 and 9 -10. Not only do those hours offer up the best lighting for pictures, the carnivores are ending their nighttime activities – hunting, feasting and energetic young ones playing – all can be seen during this magical time!
Our guide, Russel, was fantastic! I have had several ADS guides throughout the years – and Russel is right up there with the best of them. It was in no small part to his professionalism that we ended up having such a rewarding trip.
He was both hard working and humorous – and he never ceased to impress with his ability provide us with the BEST of sightings and with impeccable positioning of our vehicle for taking pictures. Yes, it’s true that a good eye and a quality camera/lens are important, but we are truly indebted to him for our closeness to the animals, the quality of the lighting, and angle of the shots that we were fortunate enough to take!
So many wonderful sightings to report this year – during our trip, we were fortunate enough to see 6 beautiful leopards, 8 cheetah and no less than 6 rhino – not to mention nearly 90 lions and countless numbers of wildebeest, zebra, giraffe, and antelope (gazelle/impala/hart beast/etc). And then of course there was the herd of over 150 – 200 elephants that surrounded us as they slowly ambled out over our trail.
One special moment was when a little tiny elephant baby bravely charged through the tall grasses straight towards us, only to be surrounded by concerned family members, trumpeting and checking on his well-being before slowly guiding him away – all of this happening right outside of our vehicle! My friend Julie just happened to capture that special moment on video, and watching it happen all over again is simply priceless!
One of the leopard sightings we had was by far the clearest/closest experiences from all of my trips that I have ever had – a beautiful male “lounging” in a tree – he was surrounded by lush greenery and a river, but yet was clearly out in the open for us to photograph and observe, very relaxed – and he seemed to literally be posing for our cameras! I couldn’t believe we were sitting there watching him in the way that we were.
And then – after we had been watching him for quite a long while in silence – he treated us to a few action shots as he climbed down from the tree and into the tall grass, walking right next to our vehicle as he moved on out to hunt. I love the leopards, so for me that moment was truly a highlight! Speaking of cats and special sightings, I should also mention that we saw 3 serval cats on this trip, which was also a real treat! The normally elusive cat was in clear view for all to see – truly a special moment for us all as well.
There were so many special moments, but another one that stands out was in Ngorongoro Crater, where we stumbled upon a family of lions. The morning had been quite damp/wet, and a lioness was walking along a standing of tall grass/reeds near a small lake. She stopped and made a slight “call” – and in response to her call, out of the wall of grass bound a mass of rolly, polly lion cubs! They burst out of the grass all at the same time and ran full speed toward their mother! It truly was a special sighting, and one I won’t soon forget! SO cute!!
My favorite part of going on a safari with ADS is that we are privileged to be out ALL day every day from dawn to dusk with the same guide – so he is well aware of what we have seen and still wish to see – and we have the luxury of spending as much time as we want watching special sightings. Some of our best moments were when we were all alone with the animals.
Even in the crater, when we saw a mother rhino and her young one sitting in the grass, all of the other vehicles stayed for a while, but it was not until they ALL left the area that the mother and baby finally decided to get up – and they came quite close to where we were waiting! We were blown away by the fact that we were the only ones there to see this beautiful sighting – and we were able to take some incredible pictures of this very shy animal. Special moments like that are what going on a private safari is all about. And remarkable moments like that are truly unforgettable!
I should also make a point to mention that our accommodations throughout the entire trip were wonderful – from the African Tulip Hotel, Serengeti Serena Lodge, Lake Masek Tented Lodge, and the Ngorongoro Serena Lodge….I cannot say enough about the comfort and courteous staff at each and every place.
Needless to say, leaving on the evening KLM flight ten days after our arrival was bittersweet – we were all filled with a slight sense of sadness that the week had literally flown by and that it was now all coming to an end…but we were also feeling so fortunate and blessed that we were able to experience such a remarkable & memorable trip together as friends!
So let me end in saying that it truly turned out to be a more than magical trip – way beyond our expectations – and one that will resonate within all of us that took part for quite a long time to come! I have lived overseas for over 25 years and have traveled extensively throughout the world – but there is NO PLACE quite like Tanzania!
They say that Africa has a way of calling one back – and I have found that to be very, VERY true! Each and every trip I take is unique and unforgettable in its own way, and I hope I will be fortunate enough to heed that call once again in the not-too-distant future.
Asante Sana, ADS for once again providing for us ALL a true “trip of a lifetime!”
Safari Dates: April 7, 2016 to April 16, 2016