Where do I begin? Well, I will begin and end with our amazing driver and guide Claude. We cannot say enough about Claude, not just his expertise as a guide, but more importantly, how wonderful he is as a human being.
I told my son Matthew on the flight to Tanzania that our trip will depend heavily on the person we get as our guide. Claude exceeded our expectations in all possible respects. Primarily, he is very friendly and attentive. As a driver and guide, it is obvious he knows more than most guides we saw in other vehicles.
Claude knows how to find animals using all kinds of signs. He knows exactly where to drive and park the vehicle for the best viewing and photos. He also is extremely patient. Most of the epic things we saw were a result of parking in the right spot and waiting patiently for the animals, especially the big cats to do things.
On a few occasions, we sat for more than an hour watching lions or leopards and the pay off was always huge. We actually started to laugh and joke at other vehicles with impatient drivers and tourists who came for a few minutes and left before seeing the real action. The first picture is Claude with the two of us at the Coffee Lodge at the end of our Safari when we said goodbye to each other.
As a result of Claude’s expertise, we saw virtually every animal on the ADS book checklist, including two Black Rhinos in Ngorongoro Crater (albeit at a significant distance, but at least we saw them). Again, this was by far more the result of Claude as opposed to us being just lucky.
The itinerary was perfect, especially the fact that we spent so much time in the Northern Serengeti the first few days. After all the sections of the Serengeti and other Tanzanian National Parks we visited, my son and I both agree that our favorite location was the Northern Serengeti. We loved the remoteness, the wilderness, the lack of people, and the river locations in the Northern Serengeti.
That being said, we loved every location we visited on our Safari, and each location had its strengths. But, if we had to pick our favorite, it has to be the Northern Serengeti. I have included a picture my son took of our first sunrise in the Northern Serengeti, complete with an African Eagle.
Some of the animal highlights our trip include the following:
(1) Seeing seven crocodiles destroy a wildebeest carcass in the Maya River;
(2) Searching and finding cheetahs along with the Kenyan border in deep grass (we still have no idea how Claude was able to spot these cheetahs);
(3) Watching interaction in the Central Serengeti between a leopard that dropped a gazelle carcass out of a tree and a nearby pride of lions that had their own zebra carcass (one of the lions, a pregnant female, charged after the leopard’s dropped carcass scaring off the leopard);
(4) Watching a pride of 10 lions with at least 8 juveniles and baby lions in the Central Serengeti (epic video attached);
(5) Watching a different pride of six female lions in the Southern Serengeti hunt and kill a baby gazelle only to see the male lion in the pride wake up, take it from the oldest female (who took it from a younger female that snagged it) and eat it by himself after warning off all the female lions;
(6) The first sighting of the Ngorongoro Crater and pulling up to the Ngorongoro Crater Lodge and seeing an elephant with huge tusks right near the entrance to the Lodge (picture also attached);
(7) The drive through another village and all the friendly children waving at us on our way around Lake Manyara;
(8) The many interactions with elephants in Tarangire National Park (another epic video attached of a large bull elephant coming towards us, along wit a pic of all the elephants in this herd standing under a tree).
I will tell you, however, that as epic as the animal sightings were for us, the most indelible experience from our trip was the visit to the Maasai Village in the buffer zone in the Central Serengeti. This was the best thing for me and my son to see, by far, without question. What we saw in this village really epitomized what we saw from every Tanzanian we encountered.
Tanzania’s greatest asset is it people, who are the kindest and most courteous people we have encountered in any area in the U.S. or other countries we have visited to date. We will remember our visit to the Maasai Village the rest of our lives, and this visit was one of the best life lessons possible for my 16-year old son. I have attached one of the pictures my son took of a Maasai child during our visit.
Every tent camp and lodge we visited was awesome, especially the people working at each location. Each place had it strengths. My son’s favorite location was Taasa (formerly known as the Buffalo Spring Lodge). It was very nice. We actually had the place to ourselves as we were the only two guests that stayed there our one evening. My favorite location was our first one, the Mara River Camp, but that is mainly because I am more of a tent camper than my son and I liked how it was a tent camp with both “roughing it” and very nice attributes to it. Again, all the locations were amazing and we loved everywhere we stayed.
The only thing we did not completely enjoy on our trip was the nighttime game drive at Taasa, but in hindsight, this was more because it was cold, we were tired from our day’s game drives and long drive from the Maya River Camp, and we were already spoiled from how great Claude was a driver and guide compared to the driver and spotlight guide Taasa provided for the nighttime drive. We also expected that we would be searching for nocturnal animals such as aardvarks, badgers, etc. and we only seemed to be surprising the same animals we saw during the day. The two lions we saw during our nighttime drive also seemed very frustrated, unlike the over 30 lions we saw during the day. We felt sorry for the two lions we saw during the nighttime drive who just wanted to be left alone. If we had to do it over again, we probably would not do this nighttime game drive.
I will go back to Tanzania and I will use ADS again. My son and I have promised each other that he will visited every continent before he graduates from HS in 2021. We already have Antarctica and Africa in the books and Southeast Asia will be next (probably Vietnam and Thailand). After my son graduates from HS (and maybe sooner), I will go back to Tanzania in the birthing season to get a different experience.
One thing I will likely insist on when I come back is that Claude is my guide again. I really hope Claude still works with ADS. He is a keeper. My son and I also consider him a friend after our wonderful experiences with him.
Safari Dates: August 01, 2018 to August 10, 2018