We did a once in a lifetime photo safari to the Serengeti back in February 2018. Within a year, the magic of this place started calling our names again. I called Dawn Anderson, with Africa Dream Safaris, to get the planning process initiated for the second time. Since our ﬁrst trip was during the green season, we thought we’d like to experience a dry season safari, with hopes of witnessing a Mara River crossing. We eventually booked our trip for mid August.
After a handful of months of anxiously awaiting our departure, the big day ﬁnally arrived. We boarded our ﬂight in Houston and 22 hours later found ourselves landing at Kilimanjaro International airport. Unlike our ﬁrst trip, where we were a bit nervous as to what to expect when we arrived, we knew that Mathias would be ready and waiting for us with a huge smile on his face, all set to whisk us through the visa process.
In short order, we were on our way to the Lake Duluti Coffee Lodge, where we stayed the next two nights. We thoroughly enjoyed these accommodations, where we were able to rest up a day before the safari began. We got another quick tour of Arusha where we visited Shanga, a gift shop that sells crafts artistically created by physically disabled adults onsite. We also visited the Maasai Market which I wouldn’t recommend doing. We didn’t stay long.
Next, we were taken to the Cultural Heritage Center, a stop I highly recommend if you appreciate great paintings, bronze sculptures, and wood carvings (all with an African ﬂare). I assure you, you won’t be disappointed in this stop. After returning to the Duluti Coffee Lodge, we got a tour of the coffee plantation and saw how the coffee beans were grown and processed. I would recommend this tour as it was very enjoyable and informative.
After the much needed rest at the Lodge, it was ﬁnally time to get the Safari started. We were shuttled to the Arusha Airﬁeld and ﬂown to Kogatende Mara River airstrip in the Northern Serengeti, where we were met by our driver guide, Ellison. With high hopes and expectations, Ellison took us straight to the Mara River where we were met by thousands of wildebeest scattered across both sides of the river.
As we sat and watched the animals grazing, we started hearing a distressed bawling wildebeest. A few minutes passed when we located the lone juvenile wildebeest in the middle of the river. A Nile Crocodile had a death grip on the back end of the animal. This was tough to watch, but as our last guide always said, “that’s just the way it is in the Serengeti.”
It didn’t take long for the grazing wildebeest to start acting ﬁdgety and moving toward the river’s edge. Before we knew it, the ﬁrst anxiety ﬁlled wildebeest made the decision to make the nervous plunge into the crocodile laden river. As expected, the rest followed suite and as quickly as it started, it was over. We could feel the tension in the air as the crossing was taking place. The feeling disappeared as soon as the animals cleared the far shore.
One might think that after seeing three crossings, it couldn’t get any better. However, our ﬁrst afternoon, we actually saw 4 of the “big ﬁve” animals (lions, a leopard, elephants, cape buffalo, but no rhinoceros). Since we didn’t expect to see rhinos in this area, we didn’t feel let down at all.
The leopard (my favorite animal to photograph) sighting was close and personal. He was sleeping on top of a big rock about 10 feet high. We watched as he snoozed. Before we knew it, he quickly sat up and with laser like eyes, he locked in and was focused on something in the distance. He jumped down off the rock, ran right past our Land Cruiser, and headed off into the tall grass.
Within seconds we saw a Steinbok running through the grass. Since the grass was taller than the leopard, he didn’t see the little antelope run off. The leopard found a rock to climb up on so he could see over the grass to scope things out.
He ended up laying down on the rock, almost begging us to come take lots of pictures of him. We did just that and got some amazing photos of this gorgeous animal posing every which way for us.
We spent three nights at the Mara River camp, in the Northern Serengeti…, just a short distance from the river. Sleeping was quite difﬁcult for us the ﬁrst two nights. Once we were zipped into our tent for the night, a herd of wildebeest moved in. Being vocal, chewing loudly and an occasional stampede that seemed to last all night long. A couple of sleepless nights for sure, but it was pretty darn cool too – Only in the Serengeti!
Departing from the Mara River Tented Lodge, we did a game drive from the Northern Serengeti (along the Kenyan border), down to the Central Serengeti toward the Four Season’s Lodge.
On the way, we were fortunate to see hyenas, Thomson’s gazelles, giraffes, Grant’s gazelles, zebras, wildebeest, cape buffalo, lions with cubs, warthogs, hartebeest, topi and elephants.
The highlight of the game drive toward the Four Season’s was when we came across two adult lions bedded down with their playful cubs near a shallow creek. Ellison, our driver guide, guessed three cubs were 6-8 weeks old and one cub at 3 weeks of age.
The youngest cub was crawling all over the older cubs and the mamma lions. The older cubs were so gentle and sweet with the small cub. The cubs wrestled and played in the water and seemed to relish in the carefree afternoon sun.
This was so fun and heartwarming to watch. Although I took a bunch of photos of these cubs, this is a memory that will be forever etched in my mind. Still photos can barely capture the feeling of that very special moment. We felt truly blessed to have shared an afternoon with these beautiful animals.
After three days/nights in the central Serengeti and being pampered at the Four Seasons, we had to say goodbye to our driver guide, Ellison. He dropped us off at the Seronera airstrip, where we were ﬂown to the Kuro airstrip, near Tarangire National Park.
There we were met by driver guide, Ally. Within minutes we were on another game drive. We were told there would be hundreds of elephants to be seen here. In two days, we stopped counting when we got to 300. It was incredible!!!!
Along with elephants, we saw more lions with cubs, baboons, vervet monkeys, ostrich, warthogs, mongoose, zebras, wildebeest, countless birds and lesser and greater kudu.
We stayed at Swala Tented Lodge for our last three nights on safari. This is an awesome camp! There is a water hole located about 50 yards from the dining tent that they keep ﬁlled with water. The elephants, cape buffalo, and a handful of other animals used the water hole continuously, so it felt as though we were always being entertained. During the night, we heard a leopard growling through camp, lions roaring, and elephants trumpeting loudly – This was way cool and never got old!
On our last morning at Swala Tented Lodge, we were sitting on the deck having a quiet, relaxed breakfast while recapping our amazing 8 days on safari. As we were visiting and feeling a bit depressed because it was all coming to an end, out of nowhere and in a ﬂash, a vervet monkey, jumped up on our breakfast table and stole a small bunch of bananas. He disappeared just as fast. Once our hearts settled down from being startled like that, we along with the camp staff just laughed and laughed. This was quite the send off that we’ll never forget.
Now, a word or two about Africa Dream Safaris; From the planning stage with Dawn Anderson to the implementation phase of the safari, they far exceeded our expectations with both the green season and this dry season safari. The guides were very knowledgeable of all the wildlife and were just as enthusiastic about the animal sightings as we were. From our prospective, there is only one safari company and that’s Africa Dream Safaris. They will not disappoint.
Thank you Ellison, Ally, and Dawn for putting together another great safari adventure for us.
Bruce and Teresa D.
Safari Dates: August 20, 2019 to August 28, 2019