Growing up in a large family without a lot of money, travel was not part of my family’s life. Our adventures to far away places came from the pages of the books we read and the nature shows we watched on TV. My fascination with the Serengeti and the animals of Africa began when my parents came home from an auction with a huge box of old National Geographic magazines. I spent hours under the covers with a flashlight devouring every article. My favorites were always about Africa. Sixty years later, my dream of visiting the Serengeti came true with the help of my husband, and Africa Dream Safaris.
Every step of this trip—from our very first phone conversation with Dawn Anderson about when to visit (rainy season vs. dry) to leaving our guide at the airport and departing for home—was seamless. Africa Dream Safaris (ADS) really has it all together. The ADS Handbook provided us with detailed planning information on a wide range of topics: what to pack, tipping guidelines, phone & internet, bush bathrooms, and everything in between.
Dawn kept us updated on how to apply for our Visas and the most current COVID requirements. Travelling during COVID did add some stress to the trip, mostly around meeting testing requirements. But even that was handled by ADS for the trip home. Every travel challenge, question, or concern we had along the way was handled with professional, knowledgeable, patient guidance from ADS. So, if you’re looking for a trip where the most stressful thing you have to worry about is how many T-shirts to pack, ADS is the outfit for you.
Our Africa Dream Safari trip was packed with once-in-a-lifetime experiences and incredible animal sightings. Some of our favorites:
The morning after arriving in Arusha, we took a bush plane to the South Serengeti, where we were met by our guide, George. George had the Land Cruiser well provisioned with water, soda, snacks, and our lunches. We were ready for our first game drive, and it did not disappoint!! That first afternoon we encountered lions, wildebeest, zebras, giraffes, a herd of elephant, and several varieties of gazelle. It is an awe-inspiring (and somewhat surreal) experience to see these animals up close in their natural environment, especially the first time.
We were so impressed with George’s knowledge of the animals and the environment. His explanations of specific animal characteristics and behaviors kept us continually entertained. We learned so much!
That evening we stayed at the first of the Hemingway Lodges we visited, Lake Masek Tented Lodge. All of the lodges are beautiful and extremely comfortable. Every creature comfort has been considered and each lodge takes advantage of the natural beauty of the surrounding environment. The staff at each are very friendly, welcoming, and accommodating.
We were up and out the next morning at daybreak with both breakfast and lunch boxes in tow. We soon came across a large herd of zebra and George thought this would be a good place to have breakfast. We totally agreed! We set up our chairs and a makeshift table for breakfast while the herd wandered around us. This was one of many unique experiences that made our ADS trip so special.
Later the same day we came across a pride of six lions with their cubs napping on the side of the road. Like many of the animals we saw on our trip, they seemed totally unfazed by our presence.
Early the next morning, off to Serengeti National Park!
The Serengeti Plain is VAST. We tried many times to capture how endless it seems with panoramic videos, but we couldn’t do it justice. It goes on and on, dotted with kopjes, which are rock formations with trees and cacti growing on them. I love rock formations, so these were a highlight (and subject of many photos) for me.
It was under a kopje that we encountered our first cheetah. Based on some “kitten fuzz” he still had on his back and stomach, George thought around two years old. He appeared to be alone and was trying to hunt on his own. We watched him stalk a herd of Grant gazelle and spring into a full sprint hoping to take one down. Unfortunately, he was unsuccessful.
The first day on the Serengeti was the only time we encountered heavy rain. It was late in the day and we were headed to our lodge, Seronera Sametu Camp. During this journey, we learned why Land Rovers are the required vehicle of the Serengeti! The roads, which are actually just jeep paths through the Plains, quickly turned to deep mud, and in places disappeared altogether under large pools of water. Thanks to George’s driving skills, and several detours, we finally made it to the Lodge. A much-anticipated cocktail and hot meal awaited us.
We spent most of the following day driving on the Plains, with a detour for a COVID PCR test required for our trip home. Highlights included coming across a group of lions sprawled out and napping in a large Acacia tree and visiting the Retina Pool where we saw many hippos. We also saw baboons, a crocodile, an adult cheetah, and hyenas and vultures cleaning up a wildebeest carcass.
The next morning it was time to leave the Serengeti and head to Ngorongoro Crater. On our way, we stopped at a Maasai village where we were greeted with singing and dancing. We toured the village with the chief and his brother, visiting a traditional Maasai home and their kindergarten school.
After our visit, we continued on to the Crater, where we spent 1 ½ days exploring. Ngorongoro Crater is a totally different experience from the Serengeti! It is much smaller (+/- 12 miles across) and contained by the crater walls. There are two lakes within the crater landscape–one fresh water and one salt—and the Lorai Forest.
Wildlife is plentiful, and because the animals are so used to vehicles, they get quite close, sometimes blocking the road and looking at you as if to say, “What’s your problem? Oh, you want me to move?” The lakes were filled with many beautiful birds: flamingos, crowned cranes, storks, pelicans, and ibis. We also encountered a bachelor group of about 15 elephants. My personal favorite from our time in the crater was the warthogs (think Disney’s Pumba). They’re the funniest looking animals!
During our visit to the Ngorongoro Crater, we spent a night at Lion’s Paw Tented Camp. It sits on the rim of the crater and is absolutely beautiful. Amazing views, amazing food, and amazing people!!
Unfortunately, our trip was quickly coming to an end. We headed to the Escarpment Lodge for one last night. Nestled into the forest overlooking Lake Manyara the lodge offers amazing views of the lake and the Great Rift Valley. This lodge is truly luxurious and our last dinner, complete with a Goodbye Cake, was one of the best meals of our trip.
In the morning we headed back to Arusha Coffee Lodge and stopped for a tour of F.A.M.E.’s impressive clinic and hospital, and we did a little shopping for gifts at the Culture Center.
We were sad to say goodbye to Tanzania, and we are already talking about a late summer/early fall adventure to Northern Serengeti to experience the migration across the Grumeti and Mara Rivers. There is no question we will travel with Africa Dream Safaris on our return trip!
Eric and Nancy W.
Safari Dates: April 12, 2021 to April 19, 2021