Like many, I began planning for our safari by researching the internet to find out: when was the best time of the year to visit, where should we visit, what were the merits of the various travel companies that offer a safari in their catalog and who could we trust with planning this unique adventure for us.
I had pages and pages of notes and was totally confused by the various opinions and information that I found. Then I stumbled upon the Africa Dream Safari website and heard that there is no best time of the year, just different times. The testimonials explained that ADS would take you to where the animals were, whenever you could go. They even had an interactive map that explained where the animals are during the various months of the year. This was pure common sense to me and I love common sense!
I was so excited when I discovered the ADS website that I emailed the company and asked for more information on their trips. Despite that fact that it was Sunday night, Michael responded to my email almost immediately. He reiterated that ADS had no preplanned tour package but, together, we would develop a private tour based upon our interests and time frame. I was sold on ADS and Michael.
As the trip got closer, it seemed that Michael and I were in almost daily contact. Given all the information that ADS had sent us and Michael’s personal attention to detail, I felt totally prepared as I boarded our flight to Africa.
When the plane landed, everything went like clockwork. Mathias met us, got our VISAs and walked us straight through customs. Joseph, an ADS intern, enthusiastically taught us words and phrases in Swahili as Tony drove us to our hotel. The next day, Precious met with us and reviewed our trip. Tony then took us on a tour of his home town, Arusha. After a good night’s sleep, Tony picked us up for our flight to the Serengeti. When we landed, we met our driver/guide David. However, all I can say is, no amount of research or conversations with Michael will ever prepare you for actually being on a safari.
I kept telling everyone that the goal of our trip was to simply experience Africa- the people, culture, land and animals. But at the end of the airstrip there were zebras grazing! No TSA agents, just zebras walking around. Almost as soon as we got into our vehicle, we saw a Nile crocodile and giraffes. We drove a short distance and saw Thompson gazelles, elephants, rheboks and our first of eight wildebeest crossings with hippos just wallowing contently nearby in the river. Then we saw a mother leopard and her cub in a tree, a pink and blue agama lizard, topi and our second wildebeest and zebra crossing.
This was followed by seeing more elephants, impalas, guinea hens, Egyptian geese, black face monkeys, giraffes, zebras and more impalas. Then we saw warthogs, elands, spotted hyenas, Cape Buffalos, marabou storks as well as our third crossing. Oh my! My head was swiveling in all directions as David pointed out these Kodak moments. I just kept jumping from side to side and from seat to seat clicking away on my camera, hoping that the pictures looked half as good as actually seeing the animals in their natural environment.
When we arrived at the Mara River Camp, we were warmly greeted by the staff and shown to our tent. We were then treated to a four-course dinner on linen table cloths while we watched giraffes across the river. (FYI Best pumpkin soup, ever!) In the morning, I was told that others in the camp heard hyenas and lions as well as felt the tremors of hippos walking close to their tent. I slept through it all.
This was only the first day of our safari and the rest of our days were just as exciting as this one.
Just a small sample of what we saw and photographed: Lions sleeping on kopjes. Lion cubs playing on their mother’s back as she slept. Lions hanging in trees. Giraffes stretching to eat the very top of the trees and bushes. Giraffes drinking water with splayed forelegs. Hippos laying in the river with birds happily sitting on their backs. A rare black rhino wandering in the grass by the river. Cheetahs looking for their next meal and taking it down as we watched.
Cape Buffalo ambling in a straight line, even when this meant crossing the road in front of vehicles. The older Cape Buffalos (I.e., the Old Bachelors) capturing my heart as they stood in small groups. Zebras in a line drinking together. Zebras gathering behind the wildebeest, waiting for a crossing to begin. A parade of elephants walking around our vehicle.
Elephant families drinking at the watering hole. An elephant with very large tusks leaning against a tree resting. Elephants devouring bushes and grasses. Elephants fly whisking. Adolescent elephants swatting each other with their trunks. A bat-eared fox forging for termites. Baboon babies riding their mother’s back like little jockeys.
A baboon “sentry” keeping watch as the troupe walked across the road. Monkeys being monkeys -chasing each other, climbing trees and eating fruit. Ostriches running. Spotted hyenas prowling for carrion. Warthogs on their knees digging in the dirt outside our tent. Klipspringers on the top of a kopjes.
Rock hydrox hiding under a rock overhang. Mongooses and banded mongooses running along the road. Impalas, Thompson’s gazelles, elands, rheboks, topi, Grant gazelles, waterbucks and my all-time favorite, the dikdiks grazing in the grasses. Birds – flying, standing in the water, perching in trees, trying to steal food at the picnic areas and swooping down on carcasses.
While I was totally engaged when we visited a Maasai village; marveled at the Ngorongoro Crater; was mesmerized by the kopjes, Disneyesque termite mounds and baobab trees as well learned a great deal about the culture of the various indigenous people that we met, who was I kidding? It really was about the animals.
The safari was everything and more than we could have hoped for. We are truly grateful to Africa Dream Safari and Michael for our Africa dream safari. Asante Sana!
Pat G. and Fred S.
Wynantskill, New York
Safari Dates: August 30, 2017 to September 11, 2017