For our 30th wedding anniversary we knew a safari would be special. We singled out ADS because they specialize in Tanzania and offer a customized journey with private vehicle and an experienced driver-guide. From the beginning with Dawn as our safari director to the end with our driver in Tanzania, we felt secure that the planning, guidance and implementation of our trip was in capable and friendly hands.
To maximize time, we flew straight to the bush from our international flights, taking only carry-on luggage with us. The “fly in/drive out” format that ADS employs is fantastic as it allows travelers to capture an immediate sense of the vast Serengeti landscape – the layout of its huge expanses, dotted with wildlife and the iconic Acacia, the plateau, escarpment and the crater of the Ngorongoro Highlands.
It felt as if each successive hop to tiny earthen landing strips brought us a little farther out of our Western mindset and into our African reality. And on the “drive out” phase, there comes a familiarity with some of the places that you have originally seen from the air.
On arrival at Seronera Landing Strip, we met Mico, our driver-guide, and our rugged and ready, stretched land cruiser with heavily modified suspension! Over the next 8 days Mico highly impressed us with his mature, professional manner and his increasingly awesome driving skills. During the ‘short rains’, the grass sprouts quickly from the summer dust and the Cradle of Humanity turns green, but it also temporarily turns patches of mud roads into waterlogged bogs with hidden potholes!
Mico was masterful at maneuvering through or around everything, even while other drivers (from other companies!) were getting stuck in thick mud. Mico’s ability to spot wildlife and his knowledge was all that was needed too. When we were too awestruck by a sight to ask enough questions, he gently plied us with the appropriate information. And he schooled us on local tribal culture and language as well.
We personally ended up preferring the simpler, more intimate mobile camps – Seronera Sametu Camp (pictured below) and Woodland Camp – to the larger permanent lodges. Apart from being able to ‘feel’ lions roaring at night, this is because the remoter tents seem to meld more naturally with the ambiance of the land and people and, we felt, gave us a better chance to appreciate the warm graciousness of the small group of Tanzanian staff at each location.
Unforgettable experiences? How to pick from a beautiful world where every turn presents a new scene, each alert to living, surviving and maybe dying? Most of it is brilliantly colorful, graceful or majestic; sometimes it is rough and raw. Of course, massive or little, wildlife moving close to the vehicle was amazing, as were the vibrant birds that we hadn’t given much thought to before arriving; and seeing them all in Green Season was lovely as so many of them appeared to be thriving in their habitats.
Seeing a thousand wildebeest suddenly break into a canter across the land in continuous single or double file, beckoned by their next migration goal, was unique and memorable. Going off the beaten track to Gol Kopjes and Naabi Hill was a wonder as we drove alone over grasslands virtually untrodden by man.
Here, we were really able to absorb the “endless plains” and endless skies from the ground. Here, we saw our first lions, and two cheetahs at a kill with a whole wake of almost comical vultures nearby. We were struck by how clean the environment is – from big cats to dung beetles, we came to understand why nothing is left on the land except a few white skull bones that not even hyenas can crush.
The Maasai boma tour was fascinating and it was a huge privilege to get a glimpse at how these warriors live. We had an inspiring visit to F.A.M.E., too, the small but thriving hospital supported by ADS. And we loved the balloon safari. Neither of us had been in a hot air balloon and arriving at the open field as daylight took hold to see the balloon rising slowly towards the sky was magical.
The serenity as it glided through the air over a setting like Oldupai Gorge was breathtaking. The champagne toast and breakfast afterwards was a lot of fun and it was nice to meet other enraptured travelers and to hear their stories, thoughts and experiences.
Finally, the Ngorongoro Crater is utterly beautiful. I am glad that it was our last stop as it really is the zenith of landscape and wildlife viewing in the region – a microcosm of the whole Serengeti (minus giraffes and cheetahs), capping off everything else wonderfully.
The animals show little fear and our day there seemed almost unreal. The elusive Black Rhino reside there and nowhere else – I’d make that same choice if I were them! They kept their distance from us but we tracked their slow march through the ADS binoculars provided in each vehicle!
Ultimately, the magnitude of our 8-day safari with ADS in December went beyond words and even the photos that we might ever take. We will be absorbing its impact for quite a while to come.
Asante sana, ADS!
Jennifer and Evan A.
Safari Dates: December 24, 2019 to December 31, 2019