The Real Magic Was Of Course The Animals!

I returned three weeks ago from the most amazing trip to Tanzania with African Dream Safaris. I have lived overseas for over 25 years and have traveled extensively on many wonderful trips but have to say this is the best trip I have ever been on.

Dawn Anderson’s planning of the trip and the help that she gave at every step was far and above anything expected. Dawn was more than willing to answer any questions and responded quickly to a multitude of emails from the most mundane questions of hair dryers to the more important of visas and travel insurance. I even asked many questions about photography which she gladly answered in detail.

I have to add that just days before departing I realized that my luggage would be overweight if I were to take the beans I needed for my camera bean bag. When I asked if I could purchase beans after the flight into Seronera she quickly responded by having our guide bring with him the beans I would need. (He even brought a larger bean bag that I ended up using the entire trip!) I cannot say enough about Dawn and her attention to details in the planning of this trip.

We got to Kilimanjaro on April 8 at 8pm and were met by the ADS team. From that moment on I felt the stress of “real” life melt away. I knew I was in good hands with ADS. We spent the first two nights at the African Tulip in Arusha where the staff was very friendly and accommodating to our needs and schedule. The food was exceptional.

We stayed at three other lodges (Serengeti Serena Lodge, Lake Masek Tented Lodge, Ngorongoro Serena Lodge) while on safari which were each different and special in their own way. The staff, at all lodges, were very friendly and more than accommodating. After being out from 6 am to 7 pm on safari—which we did for 7 straight days— coming back to a spacious room with a warm shower and comfortable bed is so important.

I cannot say enough about the quality of the lodging. It was so much more than comfortable. While each place was top quality, each was also unique in the architecture used, the staff background and the food. This only added to the magic of being on a safari.

The real magic was of course the animals and the great Serengeti itself. If the Serengeti is the magic, than the magician was Russell, our guide. He had the eye of an eagle and the knowledge of a professor. He knew each and every animal, its habitat and most importantly its behaviors. He could read the subtleties of the animals’ behavior and was very patient with us in explaining, sometimes several times over, information about both plant and animal.

I still cannot believe how many animals we were able to see and our ability to get so close. I have to say the thing that impressed me most was Russell’s respect for the animals. At one point we were following a cheetah, Russell felt our presence was causing stress to the cheetah and immediately left the area. This act impressed me even more than how close he was able to get us to the ever elusive leopard—which was very close as you can see in some of the photos I have attached.

The respect for the habitat and the animals is so important and I feel ADS is certain to make this a priority in each guide they hire. Russell was also very cognizant of light and how it affects photographs. He was always careful to get us into a position that allowed us the best possible vantage point for taking photos without disturbing the animals. Russell was truly an exceptional guide in so many ways.

Our vehicle was always clean both inside and out, restocked with food every morning – even after getting to the lodge at 7 at night and leaving the next morning at 6 am! I am not sure how he was able to do this after having driven off road for 13 hours each and every day, while educating us as well as being on the lookout for animals.

Thank you African Dream Safaris and specifically Dawn and Russell for making this dream come true in ways that exceeded all expectations!!! I do hope to return and can’t imagine using any company other than ADS.

Mary M.
Los Angeles, California
Safari Dates: April 8, 2016 to April 16, 2016

12 Comments Leave a Comment

  1. Such BEAUTIFUL pictures Mary! Simply stunning! Incredible shots…I can’t stop looking at them! 🙂 And your write up is “SPOT on!”

    1. Thanks Russell, I couldn’t have gotten the photos without your expertise and attention to lighting! Asante Sana for such an amazing trip in every way!!!

  2. Since 2012 when I took this safari, ADS has spoiled me for any other travel company I have used. No other can compare. I still long to do it again.

  3. Beautiful photos, loved the close ups! You must have had some camera! You’re right, fabulous trip, we were there 2 years ago and would love to go again perhaps now, we did January. And, as was stated earlier, the guides are key!

  4. Amazing pictures! We are taking this safari in June and can’t wait! What kind of lens/camera did you use for your pictures?

    1. Hi Steve,

      I am envious of your trip—I want to go again! I had two cameras but most of the pictures I took were with a Nikon D3s using a Nikor 80-400 mm 1:4-5.6G ED with VR. The other was a Nikon 7000 with an Nikor 18-200 lens. Have a wonderful trip!!!!!


  5. WOW, just stunning photos! We are getting ready for our 1st trip with ADS in Sept. I aspire to get photos like this and am very interested what you camera/lens/photo gear you used to get these amazing images. I’m taking a 100-400L lens and two crop sensor bodies, and trying to decide on lens for second body, and what else to take within the weight limit. Love the leopard on the tree, beautiful composition.

    1. Hi Sandy,

      Thanks so much. I used a Nikon D3s body that my father left me and a Nikor 80-400 mm with VR. I also had a D7000 with a 18-200 mm. I used both but mostly the D3s. Though I did find that the 18-200 lens was very useful as there are times you are too close to the animals and need the wider angle. It is also great for the landscape shots. I highly recommend a bean bag for your longer lens. I used it often. I found Dawn’s blog on Photography was very helpful for the other items you might need. I really liked her idea of bringing a pillow case to change out lenses if it is dusty. I did find I needed to clean my lenses every night so be sure to bring lens cleaner kit. Have a wonderful trip. I look forward to seeing your photos!!!


      1. Thank you so much for your reply. I was thinking of a 70-200L 2.8 IS lens as a mid range and this may have decided it! I have been studying Dawns post and all the blogs and FAQ info. ADS does a such fantastic job with very thorough advance information they provide. Its going to be a LONG LONG summer waiting for our trip.

  6. LOVE the photos, especially the four running lion cubs! Tanzania is a magical place and look forward to returning and visiting different areas.

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