Our Africa Dream Safari began with our arrival along with our friends Kris and Nara at Kilimanjaro Airport the evening of May 11th. After the long flight the nights rest in Arusha was welcome. The following morning our bush plane pilot, Liz, pointed out Mount Kilimanjaro, Maasai communities, migrating Wildebeests and other sights below as we flew to the western Serengeti. During our final approach to the grass airstrip we saw Hippos, a pride of Lions sleeping in the grass, Giraffe, Wildebeest, Baboons and Monkeys!
Our guide Anglebert greeted the four of us, transferred our luggage to the Land Cruiser, and within the first two hours we saw Impala, Eland, Giraffes, Crocodiles, Hippos, Monitor Lizard, Cape Buffalo, Weaver Birds, and Elephants.
During our picnic a group of giraffes strolled by, eyeing our group carefully. While we were taking photos, he was constantly working to position us for the best light, photo composition and opportunities, and got us close to any action. We learned the ins and outs of navigating within the Land Cruiser for viewing and photography, and became pretty efficient within a short time.
We arrived in late afternoon at Mbalageti Tented Lodge, located on a high hill with a panoramic view of the Serengeti. The accommodations there and at Mbuzi Mawe Tented Lodge were delightful. Our second night a lion was roaring just outside our room, and there were the sounds of Hyenas, Zebra, Baboons, and Elephants in the distance.
The Lions had made a Wildebeest kill on the perimeter of the camp, and the following morning we had our first close up encounters with Lionesses and their cubs. At Mbuzi Mawe a Cape Buffalo bedded down nightly in a sheltered pocket under a tree beside a large boulder, 40 yards from our front portal. When staying at the tented lodges we were escorted by young men with spears and flashlights whenever moving about camp when it was dark.
All of the food at the lodges was excellent, the staff members were happy, friendly, and we had fun visiting with them at our various stops. We left each morning just before daylight, took along box breakfasts and lunches, which were refreshing and filling. Our dining rooms were in the shade of trees in the Serengeti with animals all around us. A few times we elected to return to the lodge during the heat of the day for late lunch and a rest, and to avoid some of the nuisance of the Tse Tse flies while they were most active.
We watched as two Cheetahs ran down a Wildebeest calf, but they were forced away when the mother turned and charged them to save her baby; the calf escaped unscathed — got some nice photos of the action. Early one morning a large pride of lions moved across the long grass to a comfortable resting spot on a large Kopje to sleep for the day, after a successful night’s hunt and gorging on Wildebeest. Following them on their trek we parked near the Kopje to watch them.
A highlight among highlights was seeing and hearing the migration. It was a magnificent sight, with a sea of animals churning all around us. Anglebert positioned us at the base of a mountain, where we were surrounded by thousands of Wildebeest and Zebra. While we were there, two lionesses attacked one of the lines of animals on the flank of the mountain, and we could see the panicked animals fleeing; the lions were not successful in taking their prey.
We spent time watching animals with anticipation of action to come. This was true for leopards, and we were fortunate to see a number of these beautiful, elusive animals, including one taking its Wildebeest kill up into a yellow bark acacia tree. Anglebert would move our vehicle to get the best camera angles and light as the sun changed positions. He was amazing!
At the beginning of the day he asked us what our goal was for the day. Whatever we mentioned, we ended up seeing that day. He has a thorough knowledge of animal behavior, ecology, natural history, and is a proud representative of Tanzania and of ADS. Everywhere our travels took us we saw animal herds spread across the Serengeti.
We stopped by Oldupai Gorge (so named for the Oldupai plant that grows there) on the way from Serengeti to Ngorongoro Conservation Area, and had a wonderful tour of the displays and guided tour of the Gorge itself, including the exact site where Australopithecus was found by Mary Leaky.
Ngorongoro Crater was breathtaking. There we saw Rhinos (4 of them), solitary male Elephants, battling male Wildebeest in the rut, Warthogs, Zebra, swarms of birds nesting together in roadside thorn trees, Hippos, Cape Buffalo, Zebras, Lions, Ostriches, Grant’s and Thompson’s Gazelle, and many other animals; we had seen most of these in the Serengeti, with the exception of the Rhinos.
Our goal for the day there was to see the Rhino, and Anglebert had us near one within the first hour in the crater. We were the second vehicle into the crater that day in the morning mist, and the next to last vehicle out that evening. Our finale was watching a Rhino from distance of about 100 yards.
We are beginners at photography, but one can not help but capture some amazing images in these beautiful places. The lodging was wonderful with spectacular scenery. Every aspect of our trip was amazing, and far exceeded any of our expectations!!! Everyone made us feel welcome and at home.
Many have tried to describe Africa and the Serengeti and the Ngorongoro Highlands. We think Africa itself spoke to us through its incredible beauty, diversity of life, sounds like the low rumbling growl of the Lion, the calls of the Wildebeest, enchanting bird songs, varied ecosystems, its vastness and mesmerizing sunrises and sunsets. It may very well be the heart of the earth.
Asante sana to ADS, Dawn Anderson (who prepared us comprehensively for this trip; a special thanks for all of the advance photography advice), the ADS support staff, and to Anglebert (thanks for the beanbags and photography coaching and unmeasurable patience with all of our questions). This was the most spectacular trip we have ever taken!
We hope to return “home” to Tanzania again someday.
Patsy and Ed B.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Safari Dates: May 11, 2016 to May 20, 2016