My friends and I just got back from an incredible trip to Tanzania, to include Arusha, the Serengeti, Ngorongoro Conservation Area and the Ngorongoro Crater itself, and once again – I have ADS to thank for it! This was not my first trip to this part of the world, but just as in past trips – seven in all – it was no less incredible! The true “magic” of Africa is that no matter how many times you return, the experience is just as fresh and new as if you had never been. Every day in the bush is unique – and you just never know what you will see around the next corner. As the famous quote goes, “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.” And in Africa, I have found this to be so very true.
In fact, to coin a phrase, “This is so RARE!” became the go to quote for the trip throughout, and this was in no small part to the expertise of our driver guide Bernard. He was an exceptional and knowledgeable safari guide, and a VERY kind/caring individual as well. We truly enjoyed being in his presence.
I shared with him on our first day that, having come so many times in the past, I really just had two potential sightings on my wish list this go around – wild dogs and small “baby” cheetahs – two things I had never seen. A small but “mighty” wish list, to be sure! He looked at me with a twinkle in his eye, quietly smiled…..and said, “Hmmm…Wild Dogs? That is very difficult to find, but who knows…. We’ll just have to wait and see!” I smiled back, well aware that the chances of seeing “both” were probably next to never! (But secretly – I still held out hope!)
Like I said, this was not my first time to Tanzania, and this time I was traveling with 5 friends, 4 who had never been on a safari before. What fun it was to experience the sheer joy and amazement found when looking through the eyes of those seeing such wonders for the very first time!
And then, when I started to realize that we were being treated to some pretty unique sightings this go around, even for a repeat visitor, it was fun trying to explain just how “RARE” the sightings we were being blessed with actually were! At first I believe they thought I was just being silly by using the terms “unusual” and “rare” so often, but by mid safari, I think they were finally starting to “get it” – that our safari was becoming MORE than even I could had predicted…
As an example, after landing in the central Serengeti, were we were soon surrounded by literally THOUSANDS of ZEBRAS mixed in with a multitude of wildebeest, as the zebra tend to “lead” the migration, and the front runners to the Great Migration just happened to be in that area the day we landed – on their way to the Western Corridor…..So. Many. Zebra! ALL in one place! It was mesmerizing, and it was my first time (of many) to say to my friends that we were VERY lucky as we were seeing something “so very rare.” It was an exciting start, to be sure!
Next, then there was the body of a young zebra (still completely intact) that had been hoisted high up into a tree – a leopard kill “draped” over a large limb in a Sausage Tree – a bit of a hefty weight for sure, even for a leopard, but because it was such a large male leopard that had made the kill, he was able to make it happen! Stripes and spots juxtaposed high up in a tree – I’m like, “Wow….how cool is THAT?! So RARE!”
Next up – baby hippos ambling around out of the water in the fresh & cool early morning air with their mothers – so CUTE and unique to see. To my friends I say, “Seriously! For the little ones to be out and about like that – I’ve never seen that before! It’s so RARE!”
And then, while leaving the Hippo Pool area, what did we see? I really could NOT believe it – we were fortunate enough to see – wait for it…wait for it….Wild/Painted Dogs! Seriously! My “first” wish list item – checked OFF the list! And SO early in the safari too! I was bubbling over with excitement, and to my friends, I’m like, “Guys! Wild Dogs? Oh my gosh…! Can you SEE THEM! This is so, SO RARE!”
I have to mention that often it is the animal behaviors that are so very special to witness in action. That being said, another amazing moment was when this little “itty bitty baby” zebra foal found himself caught between a large male elephant and several mothers elephants with young calves….causing the large male to begin TRUMPETING loudly in alarm and the mother zebra rushing in to try and save her seriously confused, galloping baby! “GUYS! I’ve never seen such a funny (albeit also somewhat serious) interaction between zebras and elephants….what a moment of animal behavior to witness – and the elephant was so vocal! WOW! That was SO unusual and SO RARE to hear/see!”
And then – THEN – after that – one of my personal FAVORITE sightings of the trip (other than the wild dog moment, of course!) – we were able to check off my second wish list item when we saw a mother cheetah with not just baby cheetah cubs – but “baby” baby cheetah cubs! It was an AMAZING moment — approximately one to two week old cubs with their mother, tumbling about and nursing, hidden away in an Acacia bush hideaway, their eyes barely open, and I’m like – “Friends…do you realize how special this moment is? Now this….THIS is SO INCREDIBLY RARE!” (At this point, I do believe they finally totally and completely “got it!” LOL!)
Finally – towards the end of our safari – we were blessed with one more sighting that was probably the icing on our safari cake! We had to make a seriously difficult choice between to wonderful moments in the Crater – we had to “choose” between watching and photographing DARLING little itty bitty lion cubs actively romping and playing merrily in the early morning light with two very attentive lionesses – OR driving past them (how do you drive PAST them?!) so as to have an opportunity to photograph two incredibly massive & VERY alert rhinos that were hanging out VERY close to our safari trail!
Rhinos being so elusive, I am sure you can guess what we HAD to choose to do, but as most would also agree — BOTH sightings are VERY special in their own right — and I’m like, “Guys! What to choose? To see both of these things AT THE SAME TIME? This is SO amazing – and so RARE!!!” We did get a little time with the cubs too, but having to split the time between them was the kind of experience that makes going on a safari so exhilarating!
Unique and rare sightings such as these blended in with all the sightings of wildebeest, zebra, gazelle, jackals, hyenas, lions, leopards, cheetah, multitudes of birds of all colors and sizes, elephants – all interwoven throughout the entire trip made our time out on our day-long drives simply fly. It was a real treat to see such rare sightings with friends who initially had no way of really knowing just how special and RARE the wildlife sightings on their “once in a lifetime” trip was turning out to be! And I was SO happy for them – and for me.
The ENTIRE trip turned out MORE than fantastic! From our stop at St. Jude’s School (As teachers, we enjoyed being able to visit a 6th grade math class in action!) to Tanzanite shopping at Cultural Heritage….from visiting Shenga to all of our wonderfully comfortable and accommodating lodges…..from ALL the wonderful food/service we enjoyed while sitting out under the stars/moon for a bush dinner (celebrating with Champaign a 40th birthday/a senior graduate/a 3rd time ADS returning friend) to sharing our own private hot breakfast with grilled meats, fresh fruit, omelets coffee and mimosas down in the crater – it was all so VERY memorable and simply OVER the top AMAZING! I could go on and on….and on.
I think I can speak for EVERONE when I say Asante Sana to Dawn Anderson, Michael Wishner, Bernard, and ALL the others wonderful ADS & lodging staff that made this trip such a wonderful experience for all. We cannot thank you enough. It truly was a SUCH a wonderful experience – a very “RARE” trip indeed – and a memorable trip of a lifetime for all!
Safari Dates: April 5, 2019 to April 13, 2019