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.
Safari Dates: February 1, 2018 to February 14, 2018