I love Africa and all that it offers, to both the heart and the soul. To me there is no place quite like it on Earth. It is hard to explain this to people who have never been, but it is truly life changing, and I love to share my experiences traveling there with my friends.
Because of this, my friend Katrina had been waiting to go on an African safari with me for years, but there was always something it seemed that would get in the way of our being able to make it happen. Then, about a year ago, she said to me one day out of the blue, “OK. I say it’s TIME! You know that African Safari we keep talking about? Let’s just DO it!” YAY! Of COURSE, I was totally on board, and so – well – “just do it” we DID!
We gathered up a group of interested friends and colleagues – nine in all – and after putting our trust in Dawn Anderson and Africa Dream Safaris to put together a uniquely customized safari itinerary for us, we couldn’t have been more pleased with the final result!
What an AMAZING 8-day safari experience it promised to be – and in the end, was! Not only did we meet WONDERFUL people and have amazing animal sightings in the bush, but we also had a blast just being ourselves – together as a fun group of friends. Many “Oooohs!” and “Awwwws” were readily heard, but also were many, MANY genuinely heartfelt giggles and laughs!
About half of our group live/work in Italy, while the others were coming from the US, so we all met up in Amsterdam, and hopped on a KLM flight together to start our exciting African adventure! After arriving in Arusha and being picked up by the fabulous ADS staff, we spent two nights in Arusha and happily enjoyed one full day of shopping, seeing Arusha, and just enjoying time together as a group eating, drinking, and resting up before our early morning flight into the Serengeti.
One very special moment that day was when we went to visit a shop where the craft workers all deal with various forms of physical challenges, many of whom were deaf. As it so happened, one in our group of friends just happens to be fluent in sign language – and so she/they spent much of our visit there laughing and talking together! It was simply amazing – to watch their silent interaction which was also filled with MANY smiles and a whole lot of laughter – a moment we will NEVER forget!
The next morning was April 1st – and on that beautiful Easter Sunday morning, we were finally OFF on our adventure! Our flight over the Great Rift Valley and into the Serengeti was breathtaking. We were extremely fortunate in that we flew RIGHT over the Ngorongoro Crater, and happily the skies were clear so we were able to get a wonderful view of the caldera from the air! It was like an emerald green gem encased within the crater’s rim – simply jaw dropping beautiful!
Once we landed at the Central Serengeti Airport, we were met immediately by our AMAZING guides Roman and Dida. We could tell from the start we were in VERY good hands! They were kind, thoughtful, funny, and VERY knowledgeable. Before long they were no longer just our guides, but good friends.
That very first day started off with incredibly close encounters of both massive elephants and elegant leopards (the leopard being one of the most elusive of animals to see, but also one of my personal favorites!) Truly – seeing two amazingly close leopards so early in the safari was surely a good luck sign of just how wonderful our safari was to be. (…and it WAS!) Each and every evening we would all say to one another, “Today was SUCH an amazing day! How can it get any better?!” But because EVERY day in the Serengeti is so unique, every SINGLE day always stood out on its own as being extremely special!
More than a few spectacular moments came in the form of lion sightings…. Watching the little ones play, adult males resting on kopjes or termite mounds in all their glory – manes flowing in the wind, females caring for their youngsters, itty bitty babies hiding in the grasses – awaiting their mothers’ return, and one of the best sightings of ALL— watching a pride of no less than 34 lions feasting on a buffalo kill which was within walking distance (and eyesight!) from where we were staying at Sametu Camp! LOL! How crazy is that?! Right?
I could go on and on (and ON!) about all of our sightings, both in the Serengeti and in Ngorongoro Crater – about the cheetahs, spotted AND STRIPED hyenas, bat eared foxes, dik diks, reed bucks, Thompson & Grant gazelles, impala, zebras, vultures, rhinos, giraffes, ostriches, hippos, BEAUTIFUL birds (and birds – and more birds!), black-backed jackals, over 100 lions, the leopards, baboons, monkeys, and so – SO many others! All and all – every single sighting was – in its own right – simply and incredibly amazing…
Just seeing the sheer number of wildebeests in the middle of the migrating herds was spectacular and something one wishes everyone could see! Thousands (totaling into the millions!) spread out over the plains as far as the eye can see… Incredible to witness in person, and I am so thankful there are still places like this on earth where such things as the great migration still occur – and blessed in that I have been able to witness it in person.
I must also mention that our stop to visit the FAME clinic so as to see the work that Dr. Frank Artress is doing near Karatu was more than impressive. He and his wife Susan are TRULY making a difference in the lives of the people that he serves. A very worthwhile stop indeed! (And a cause worthy of one’s support!)
Lastly – but certainly not least – I must mention the camps where we stayed in the Serengeti– Seronera Sametu and Woodlands Camps – and the fantastic staff that made our stay in both camps simply magical! There is nothing quite like sipping on a cold Serengeti beer while sitting around a toasty campfire with friends. The briefings we had in the camps by both the Serengeti Lion Project and the Cheetah Research Center were also both SO educational and interesting.
The food was fantastic, and the ambiance simply unforgettable. Our night having a bush dinner out “under stars and the rising moon near a roaring fire” was – simply put – incredible! Sigh…. What I would give to be back there now….!
The lodges where we stayed were wonderful as well, both Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge and Escarpment Luxury Lodge. But of the two, we all fell IN LOVE with Escarpment Lodge! The friendly staff, the view of the lake from our rooms, the Massai…I could have EASILY stayed there a whole lot longer, but sadly, by the next morning, it was time to go.
So…let me just end by saying – this was not my first trip to Tanzania – but being with SUCH great group of friends – it was definitely right up there as being one of the best! Thank you SO MUCH Dawn for planning a wonderful trip for us all – your efforts to make this a true “trip of a lifetime” for each and every individual was NOT lost on us! Asante Sana! And then some…
Safari Dates: March 30, 2018 to April 07, 2018