You can’t compare Africa to a camping vacation or a wilderness stay in a US national park. Being in the Serengeti National Park was pure and raw.
Departing from Arusha to the Kogatende airstrip set the tone for our entire Safari with Africa Dream Safaris. Other folks were waiting dressed in white jeans and walking shoes, jaunty straw hats and bright colored shirts and jackets- more prepared for a resort than an experience of a lifetime. Well prepared over the previous nine months by Sharon Lyon of ADS, we had come to Tanzania ready to be educated, to push beyond our comfort zones, and to inhale the REAL Africa.
We felt completely equipped and ready to track the Big 5 coming off the plane and meeting our guide and driver, Arnold. Every detail was well- planned. At each tented camp, we were met with friendly and professional staff. The accommodations were spacious, comfortable and most importantly for us city-people, there were modern bathrooms.
The food was made from scratch, and while basic comfort food, we were never hungry at any meal. Add to that the most amazing landscape, and each meal was a National Geographic photograph with a locally sourced menu.
What we were not prepared for was the amount of education we would get in seven days. When ADS says there will be the sounds of Africa at night – they weren’t kidding. Faraway Hyenas talking and zebras eating the green grass around our tent the very first night was shocking, but exhilarating (though one of us had trouble with sleep after that).
Another night we heard Cape Buffalo dining and lions communicating. And during the day, we were witness to the beautiful plains and Ngorongoro crater, the astounding wildlife during migration and those animals that are permanent residents. Not just a pair of animals like in a zoo but 16 elephants in a herd, hundreds of migrating zebras and wildebeests, and solitary predator cats. Each find was more exciting than the previous discovery.
Arnold, our incredible driver and guide, navigated with skill miles and miles of land forms known only to experienced guides. No street signs, no mile markers. Yes, the radio he used helped us to discover a lone cheetah watching a herd of Thomson gazelles. But, many, many times it was another safari guide and vehicle asking us for directions and advice about where to find a certain animal.
At one bathroom rest stop, Arnold announced we were eating lunch there under a tree. The week before, a lone rhino had come to the watering hole at 1 pm. So we ate and waited. And habit prevailed: the Rhino arrived on cue.
The photographs my husband was able to take because of Arnold’s knowledge of the behavior of different animals were pretty darn close to professional. We also rented the expensive 100-400mm lens for our Canon DSLR camera from Lens Pro To Go, which made a huge difference in our pictures.
We were dusty, exhausted and nearly ready to return to the United States on the last, long day of our trip. We squeezed in the Lake Manyara preserve, and I happily got to see my favorite bird- the flamingo, in spite of it being the season of migration.
Our safari was rounded out by a short walk in the bush to see flora and fauna, a guided tour of a local Masai village and a city tour of Arusha with Joseph and Mathias- the local village life, a little shopping, the second largest coffee plantation, and the Cultural Heritage and Arts Center. And on the way to the airport, a stunning sunset view of Mt. Kilimanjaro.
It really was the trip of a lifetime.
Lydia and Kirk Moul
The Woodlands, Texas
Safari Dates: October 7, 2017 to October 17, 2017