Becky and I returned from Tanzania and our Trip of A Lifetime on January 24, 2020. It was an amazing adventure, and we will carry our memories of it for the rest of our lives. We love wildlife and bird-watching and had talked about a safari to Africa for 20 years. We even attended a couple of travel shows about Africa, but couldn’t really figure out how to start and where do we go? How do you coordinate this? Is it safe? So, we procrastinated. Until, we met our new neighbors.
Inside their home was a number of pictures of African wildlife and I asked the question…where did you go? Tanzania, 3 times, and all with Africa Dream Safaris. Without hesitation, they called Sharon Lyon and said, “we’ve got two neighbors who want to go on a safari.” That call got us on the way to Africa.
After reviewing the ADS website, we discussed our ideas with Sharon and she sent us a tentative itinerary. We thought the Hemingway tented camps sounded like something we would like, and the concept of a private safari sounded great. After all, if this is to be a trip of the lifetime, why share it with strangers? After a bit of tweaking, we were all set.
Sharon recommended Cathy King to handle the airline reservations, and that worked wonderfully. After all, with Lyon-King on your side, could you expect anything better? Between the ADS website and other materials they provided, we felt fully prepared for the adventure.
We headed to Tanzania with simple goals in mind-Becky wanted to see “the Big Five”. I wanted to see the “Great Migration” and flamingos on a lake. We saw all those things and much, much more!
We were met at the airport by Joseph who escorted us to the Arusha Coffee Lodge and took us on a city tour the next day. We chose to stay an additional night in Arusha to recharge from our trip from the US before we headed out to the bush. The Arusha Coffee Lodge was wonderful, with great service and friendly people. Mathias met us after breakfast and escorted us to the Arusha Airport where he stayed with us through check-in and security, making sure we were comfortable (and at the right gate!)
We flew from Arusha to Seronera Airstrip where we met our guide Ben. His constant smile, calm demeanor, extensive knowledge of wildlife and birds and over 20 years as a guide in the Serengeti helped to make our trip truly memorable. We spent the next 8 days together, ate our meals together, and learned a lot from him. He learned a lot from us, too. In a land of endless grasslands, few roads and thousands of trails to follow, we joked that he had a GPS in his head!
We stayed at Seronera Sametu camp for 2 nights, then onto Woodlands Camp for 2 nights. When approaching Woodlands, Ben spotted a pride or 9 lions basking in the sun on a rock outcropping less than 1/2 mile from our camp! Ben, as well as all of the staff at the camp, assured us we had nothing to fear, and we would hear the lions at night, and we did!
On day 5 we headed to the Lake Ndutu/Masek area where we stayed at the Lake Masek Tented Lodge. It was a bit “fancier” than our other tented camps, and a few hours in the swimming pool seemed like a treat.
We ended day 7 at the Lion’s Paw Camp after a late afternoon game drive in the Ngorongoro Crater. Ben had told us the Crater was like Noah’s Ark, without the unicorns. He was right. The number and diversity of wildlife there was truly amazing. It was here we saw rhinos (making Becky’s Big Five goal complete) and thousands of flamingos (one of my goals.) We even saw a rare bat eared fox.
On Day 8 we got an early start and due to Lion Paw’s location at the entrance gate, we enjoyed the first two hours of our game drive in the Crater without any other vehicles to be seen. We had the place all to ourselves. It was on this early morning game drive when we saw our first of two rhinos. We ended our day at the Escarpment Luxury Lodge where we were treated to a fabulous private “Sundowner” courtesy of ADS.
Our last day took us to Lake Manyara National Park, where we saw many elephants, baboons, and hornbills. We also saw a hard to find African fish eagle. We headed back to Arusha, enjoyed a few hours and an early dinner at the Arusha Coffee Lodge before being escorted by Ben and Mathias to the airport to begin our journey home.
The numbers and diversity of wildlife and birds on our trip was amazing. We were particularly lucky to see a number of rare cats, in addition to lions, cheetahs and leopards, we saw a rare Caracal, an even rarer Serval cat, and an even rarer yet Kaffir cat.
With all that we saw, you might think it would be hard to pick out one thing that stands out-for me, it is approaching a ridge on one of our game drives and seeing the Great Migration before me. Endless grassland from horizon to horizon with over 700,000 wildebeest and 250,000 zebras right there, and then driving down through the middle of them!
A couple of final thoughts:
We never felt unsafe or in danger whether it be from animals or people or terrorists. There are places in the world we would not go to. We were escorted every step of the way. We’re not big photographers, as we used our iPhone and a point and shoot zoom camera. We got lots of great pictures, but our memories of this adventure are better than any pictures we could take.
Thank you Ben, Sharon, Cathy, Michael, Joseph, Mathias and all of the wonderful people we met in Tanzania for making this our “Trip of a Lifetime”
Rob and Becky L.
The Villages, Florida
Safari Dates: January 13, 2020 to January 23, 2020