I emailed ADS and received a prompt response from Sharon. After a few months of discussions Sharon provided us with an itinerary for a 10 day private safari. We wanted an authentic experience so we opted for the custom Hemmingway Camp option. This included 2 nights at River Camp in the Northern Serengeti, 4 nights in Seronera Sametu Camp in the Central Serengeti and 2 nights at Lions Paw Camp at Ngorongoro Crater. Our favourite location was the Central Serengeti and the Seronera Sametu Camp.
Travelling from Australia we chose to fly QATAR Airways as they were the only international airlines (other than KLM) that fly directly into Kilimanjaro Airport. QATAR Airlines in our view is 5 star.
On arrival at Kilimanjaro Airport with our completed customs form we were met by Mathias Mvungi who escorted as through customs while all other passengers were filling out their customs forms. Off to a great start.
Mathias drove us to Lake Duluti Lodge at Arusha where we would spend our first night and then the next morning fly by light aircraft to the Northern Serengeti. The Lake Duluti lodge was absolutely beautiful located within a private coffee plantation. The lodge was a last minute change to our itinerary and I am happy that this was the case.
The next morning we travelled through busy Arusha to the local airport where we were assisted by Mathias to our flight. The aircraft I believe was a Cessna Caravan. The aircraft had to make two other stops in the Serengeti to drop off other passengers at two small airstrips before we reached the Mara River Region. The local flight was smooth and exciting as wildlife could be viewed on the journey.
Upon landing at Kogatende Airstrip adjacent to the Mara River we were greeted by our guide Thomson Malekia. Thomson is the best guide. I know everyone else says their guide is the best but Thomson well I can’t say enough about him his personality, humour, friendship and most important his ability to identify habitat for each type of wildlife species and then to spot and identify them was something else.
Thomson would spot wildlife that we could not see until pointed out to us even though the animal was directly in front of us on occasions. Thomson’s experience with photographers was also evident as he was able to offer suggestions as to how to achieve the best photographs.
Even though this was a private safari and we had the option to go where we wanted and when we wanted we decided to leave that business in the hands of the expert and let Thomson guide us through the Serengeti.
The schedule for each day was up at 5am breakfast at 5:30am and on safari by 6am.The timing worked out well for us and enabled us to catch those animals that often are only active in the early morning. Back from safari by 6pm shower and dinner at 7pm then bed by 9-9:30 pm.
The camps and the staff were fantastic. Great locations in the wilderness and the staff just cannot do enough for you. They are so friendly and happy and so keen for you to enjoy yourself.
The food. Quite frankly to be able to prepare 3 course meals in those locations and with the available facilities these people did and exceptional job. The food was excellent and the soups were so flavoursome and yummy you always wanted more.
Because the Central Serengeti was hotter than the other regions we decided to return to camp for a hot lunch and a siesta then back to game drives at 4pm when it was a little cooler and the wildlife more active.
The Wildlife. We saw practically every animal there was to see but unfortunately the Rhinos were not about and difficult to locate due to their small numbers and habitat. We were however treated to an overview of the Serengeti Rhino by the head Ranger at Maru Kopjes Ranger station in the Central Serengeti which was another unexpected highlight.
Highlights for us apart from all the wildlife that we spotted and photographed included lions directly outside our tent during the night (we called this our wake up as it happened just before we were to walk to breakfast most mornings!), being chased by a herd elephants, wilder beast crossing the Mara river (about 2000), our walk with the Ranger, so many baby animals, and the cats well we could not get enough of these animals including the Cheetah brothers.
I must say however that if you want to get up close with photography a 400mm lens or better is a must especially for birdlife. I used a 100-400 lens for everything including landscape but wished at times I had a little more reach. A 1.4x extender would have helped. And don’t forget dust bags for your camera while on game drives. I used a Sea to Summit Drysack. You will get dust in your camera if you do not use a bag. On returning to camp one day I tapped my lens hood on the table and so much does came out it was unbelievable.
Many thanks to everyone involved at ADS for putting together this amazing experience for us, especially Sharon for developing the itinerary and giving us assurances that everything would run smoothly and that ADS would hold our hands all the way so to speak to ensure our safety and to provide an exceptional safari, all the staff at the tented sites who provide such a wonderful experience and most of all our thanks to Thomson a fantastic guide and a wonderful person. Hope to see Thomson again one day.
Geoff and Rachel B.
Safari Dates: November 05, 2018 to November 14, 2018