We Feel So Blessed To Have Witnessed Mother Nature At Her Finest

After contemplating an African safari for some time, I decided to start seriously looking into such an adventure about 8 months ago. I did a web search and found a handful of tour operators and called several of them and their references. I never really felt comfortable with any of them and then I made the call to Dawn Anderson with Africa Dream Safari and the rest is history.

I spoke with 4 or 5 previous ADS clients and spoke at length about their experiences. It was then that I was sure I’d found a tour operator that I had full confidence in. Dawn was always and still is so enthusiastic and eager to chat about life in the Serengeti and the animals that make it such a special place. I had a million questions for Dawn and most were probably silly questions and she never left me feeling as though I was wasting her time.

Upon making the decision that this is what my wife and I really wanted to do, I called one of my brothers and ran the trip by him. He and his wife were onboard almost immediately. I then called my second brother and ran the idea past him. He said he’d run it past his wife and at that point I would have bet anything that they wouldn’t be going on the trip. To my surprise and with great delight, his wife was onboard as well.

So, the decision was made by the three brothers and our wives to head to Tanzania with Africa Dream Safari on January 31st. My brother’s and their wives decided to do 8 days on Safari and my wife and I stayed for 12 days.

We arrived at the Kilimanjaro airport on February 1st and were met immediately by ADS representatives and were assisted through the visa/customs process. We were then driven to the beautiful African Tulip hotel and treated like royalty by the staff at the Tulip. While the six of us were relaxing in the lounge, the hotel manager and several of his staff appeared with a birthday cake for my brother. I will have to give many kudos to Dawn for making that happen. Especially since it was not expected. Needless to say, the birthday boy felt pretty special that night. Way to go Dawn!!!

It was decided we’d take a day to rest and to tour Arusha before heading out on Safari. It was then when we met Claude, one of our two guides. Claude took us to the local market and to a place called Tanzanite Experience so that we could buy some beautiful jewelry. We spent the afternoon sitting by the pool and catching up on some much needed rest after the long journey from Texas, Colorado and Minnesota.

On day one of our Safari we were met in the lobby of the Tulip by Claude and our second guide Elias. We then drove from Arusha to Lake Manyara where we saw assorted monkey’s Waterbuck, Cape Buffalo, Marabou Storks, Hippos, Warthogs and more. That evening we found ourselves inside the rim of Ngorongoro Crater where we stayed two nights at The Lions Paw tent camp.

Not really knowing what to expect with respect to a tent camp, we were pleasantly surprised at how luxurious Safari tent camping can be. The staff at Lion’s Paw was super accommodating and warm. Almost hated to leave Lions Paw but knew we had so many more places to explore.

We spent two days inside the crater and were fortunate to see several Black Rhinos, lots of wildebeest, lions, ostrich, Thompson and Grants Gazelles, Zebras and more. The crater was just as I was told it would be. “Incredible” Oh, I almost forgot, we saw the birth of a baby wildebeest. How cool was that?!!!

The next leg of our journey had us pointing in the direction of Lake Masek Tented lodge. This too was a first class tent camp. Again, the staff was super friendly, accommodating and treated us like royalty. We enjoyed three nights at Lake Masek. One morning we left Lake Masek very early as we booked a hot air balloon ride which I’d highly recommend everyone doing. When we arrived back to camp late that morning, there were lion tracks on the porch of our tent. So, were the tracks there when we left early and in the dark or were the lions walking across the porch after we left? Either way very exciting stuff for us.

I mentioned seeing the birth of a baby wildebeest while we were in the crater. Well, the morning of our balloon ride, we witnessed three spotted hyenas take down a wildebeest. It was very hard to watch but that’s mother nature at work and life among the animals of the Serengeti. Before we knew it, there were 11 hyenas on the wildebeest and within 30 minutes, the wildebeest was totally consumed. As guide Elias would say “That’s just the way it is”.

After returning from our balloon ride, the wives decided to stay back at camp while the boys went out on another game drive. We were able to get lots of photos of Cheetahs and ended up at a place called “Hidden Valley”. Hidden Valley is a fairly large watering hole that services a HUGE number of wildebeest and zebras. Oh my gosh, as far as the eye could see in two directions were countless numbers of animals. The two words that was heard often in our vehicles during the safari was “absolutely incredible”!

The next destination on our journey was the Four Seasons lodge. My brothers and their wives spent one night here before heading home and Teresa and I got to stay for three nights. The Four Seasons Serengeti is truly a special place. If being pampered is what one desires, you certainly wont be disappointed here. Great staff and great food. Don’t forget your swim suit.

At this point on our Safari is when we had to say goodbye to Elias. There aren’t enough good words to describe him. He was everything we could have hoped for in a guide. Very knowledgeable in the wildlife, their habitat and their habits. We all enjoyed his warm personality and huge smile during the trip.

Claude or Cloudy as Elias called him, remained with Teresa and me for the next four days. I came up with my own name for Claude. He became Claude Eagle Eye as he could spot a leopard foot or tail dangling out of a tree a quarter mile away. We’d be driving a two track trail when all of a sudden ol’ Eagle Eye Claude would stop the truck and say “There’s a Leopard in that tree” while pointing at a tree way off in the distance. In disbelief, I’d pull out the binoculars to see what he saw with a naked eye and sure enough, there it was and off we’d go ever so slowly easing up closer so as not to frighten the leopard.

I have to admit, the leopards ended up being my favorite animal to photograph. They are the most magnificent creatures.

The last two nights were at Seronera Sametu tented camp and Kusini Tented Lodge respectively. Both camps were special in their own way. Seronera Sametu was nestled in a lightly wooded area and we had giraffes eating on the acacia trees 10 yards from our tent when we arrived and they weren’t even alarmed by our arrival to our tent. We did think that was pretty cool.

Kusini Tented lodge sits atop a big granite rock (Kopje) while the tents are placed conveniently and inconspicuously around the kopje amongst the trees. The tall granite kopje offered great views and landscape and sunset photo opportunities.

On day 12, our departure day, we had several hours to in the morning for a game drive before Claude had to take us to the airstrip to catch our flight back to Arusha. We were fortunate enough to arrive on scene just after a momma wildebeest gave birth to new baby. Still wet and unable to stand at that point, momma wildebeest and another adult wildebeest were trying to get the newborn on it’s feet.

All the while, I’m firing away with my camera and looking through the view finder. Only then did I realize that the second adult wildebeest was also in labor and actually had two hooves of her own baby sticking out the back side of her. Mother nature at her finest is all I can say. We feel so blessed to have witnessed something as cool and special as that.

Now for the sad part of the trip. Our Safari is officially over and Claude has to take us to the airstrip. I found myself feeling emotional for two reasons. I was leaving a very special place and I was having to say goodbye to someone that in 12 days became a dear friend to both Teresa and me. Claude is a soft spoken gentleman that absolutely loves what he does and worked hard to make the trip extra special and memorable for both of us. I do hope our paths cross again one day.

A huge thank you to Dawn Anderson and the entire ADS crew in Tanzania for turning this adventure into the trip of a lifetime.

Bruce D.
Hempstead, Texas
Safari Dates: February 1, 2018 to February 14, 2018

18 Comments Leave a Comment

  1. Your pictures are amazing! Afica is incredible and I may need to go back this year after hearing about your trip.

    1. Thanks so much. It was an awesome trip we’ll never forget. We’ll never get tired of sharing the adventure verbally and through photos with old and new friends.

  2. Thank you so much for sharing – Africa has a heartbeat of her own! Once she gets into your system it is hard to resist her call!

    1. You’re so welcome Helen. I agree with your assessment on Africa…, well Tanzania anyway as that’s the only country we visited. Awesome trip for us.

  3. Excellent recap and super photos! Just a question about camera gear: Seems like many of the shots you got were pretty modest focal length lenses. Guess I always thought one would need a lot of glass in the 400-600mm range to get tight shots of, for example, the leopard. Is my perception accurate? Do you need a lot of telephoto reach? What, approximately, focal length are you shooting a lot of your shots with? Thanks! And congrats on superb documentation of an outstanding trip!

    1. Thank you Tex. I appreciate your kind comments. I carried two fixed lens cameras with me to Tanzania. The Olympus Stylus 1S and a Nikon P900. I like things to be easy and these cameras being fixed lens definitely made it easy.
      The Olympus Stylus 1S is no longer being made but in my view has been a great little camera. I purchased this camera a couple years ago before an expedition cruise to Alaska with Lindblad/National Geographic and after I read a stellar review by a professional photographer. It shoots up to 300mm optical zoom and 600mm digital zoom. i found myself using this camera for closer range shooting in the beginning of our trip but ended up using the Nikon P900 90% of the time.
      The Nikon P900 shoots out to 2000mm (I did say two thousand mm). It took me some time to get used to that much magnification and soon realized a person can’t possibly hand hold at that focal length and get a tack sharp photo. Even on a tripod, one needs to use the timer as just pressing the shutter button creates too much shake. Having said that, a tripod isn’t a very good option on a safari either as I think it would be way too cumbersome and way too much trouble. I relied on bean bags and really concentrated on gently pressing the shutter button so as to eliminate camera shake the best I could. I took over 6000 photos during our trip and of course, I ended up with a lot of stinkers that were quickly deleted once I got home. I also got a lot of pretty good shots too in my novice opinion. I went back n forth with my settings on the camera. I used both “Auto” and “Shutter Priority”. I also adjusted up and down on the exposure compensation some too if lighting was difficult. I’d use shutter priority when I had the zoom cranked way up and adjust to as fast of shutter speed as I could to hopefully prevent camera shake.
      My brothers had multiple camera bodies and lenses on the trip. It seemed they were changing out lenses all the time which I didn’t have to do and that was great. The Nikon P900 turned out to be a great camera. One brother had a Canon 100-400 lens that in a handful of cases wasn’t quite enough glass where my fixed lense Nikon quite possibly was much better.
      Hope this helps.

      1. Thanks for such a thoughtful reply, Bruce! Very helpful! I’m a Nikon guy from way back, but wasn’t aware of the P900. I’m glad you clarified it as effective 2000mm, as I skimmed by it as 200mm! I was thinking y’all had gotten REALLY close! Sounds like your “pick a camera and stick with it” plan worked. Your brothers sound like guys I fish with: always changing lures instead of actually fishing! Plus, I’d hesitate to change lenses that much with all that dust. Well, looks like you really hit the mark. Well done, and thanks for the tip–I’ll check into the 900, or whatever newer one they come out with next week! Happy trails!

        1. You’re so welcome. We did get pretty close to most of the animals. The telephoto came in very handy when I wanted to pull up close to get full frame facial shots of the leopards and the rest. I absolutely loved photographing the leopards as I think they’re such beautiful animals.
          Have a great week.

  4. Bruce those are superb pics and I’m thrilled you had such a great trip. Your leopard pic belongs on a magazine cover. I knew you would love Tanzania. Dawn and the rest of ADS make it so easy right?
    Time to start planning trip two and trying to figure out which pictures to hang on your walls at home. I bet you have hundreds you could choose from..

    1. Thanks Eli. It was the most awesome trip and yes, we are having a tough time choosing photos to be enlarged. A nice problem to have I guess. Can’t wait to start planning the next adventure. I appreciate all the time you graciously shared with me visiting on the phone before we went on our trip.

      Bruce

  5. Bruce, I felt like I was on your trip with y’all! Your photos were fsbulpus!! Glad you and Theresa made that trip and enjoyed it!! Happy Travels!

    1. Thank you Maura for the kind words. I’m so glad you enjoyed my post and the photos. I’ve said it many times, it was an incredible trip of a lifetime.

  6. Bruce, We visited in the early stages of your Safari planning about my wife and my safari experience with ADS. We are glad to hear that your Safari was a trip of a lifetime like ours was! Your photos are great! We are glad that y’all had such a wonderful Safari experience and hope you found the information that we shared with you to be beneficial. All my best, Jerry

  7. Hi Jerry, so good to hear from you. Thanks for the kind comments regarding my photos. The trip was just as you said it would be “A TRIP OF A LIFETIME”! It was the conversation I had with you and several others that had me feeling even before the trip started that we were doing the right thing. I’m hoping I’m not driving all my friends crazy because it feels like the trip is all I want to talk about. :-))). I don’t know if it’ll ever happen but I would love to go back again sometime.
    I appreciate you taking the time to visit with me.
    Take care,
    Bruce

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