In the month of September, 2018, my wife and I enjoyed one of the most amazing travel experiences possible, an African safari hosted by Africa Dream Safaris. At the conclusion of that adventure we found ourselves wondering if we would ever again be able to return to Tanzania and repeat such an awesome travel experience. As good fortune would have it, we did repeat our African adventure, spending 14 days on safari in April 2021.
The Serengeti and Ngorongoro Conservation Area during the green season was a very different safari from that of the dry season. The savannah of the Serengeti exploded with vibrant growth of every imaginable shade of green. So, which then, is our favorite season for safari? The answer is really both, although for very different reasons.
If you prefer a dry warm climate then September is a perfect month for safari. In the green season, of the ‘long rains’, it becomes apparent that, as it is often said, “rain means game”. That is not to say rain is the rule…rather than the exception. Quite to the contrary, most of our safari days were sunny and warm. At times rain could be seen falling distant miles from our game drive location. The ADS driver is an experienced expert in rain shower avoidance.
Most of the animals, which we saw for the first time on this safari, were out and about because of the lush, thick grasses and other foliage. Such a natural abundance affords near instant safe harbor and cover from any nearby predator. We watch a Black Backed Jackal repeatedly pounce in vain while trying to capture a small rodent in the tall grass. The elusive Marsh Owl and shy, primarily nocturnal Caracal feline are two examples of a presence which is not often seen.
The more familiar inhabitants of the Serengeti were on full display. Many had their recently born offspring in tow. Wildebeests by the uncountable thousands, zebras, giraffes, hippos, rhinos, hyenas, elephants, all the varied sizes, colors of antelope and so much more. The big cats were everywhere. Lions, leopards, cheetahs, all in their dominate, sometimes deadly serious and yet relaxed glory.
The incessantly searching cheetah, always seeking unsuspecting prey while avoiding the threat of danger posed primarily by lions and hyenas. The cheetah is not shy about finding and using the highest vantage point in the vicinity. At times that may be, if you’re lucky, atop your safari vehicle as we experienced twice. What a awesome thrill to realize your entire camera viewfinder is filled by an elegant wild predator that is so close you could reach out and touch it. Not recommended though!!
The Serengeti is anything but a static display of nature in the most basic circumstance. Examples of which abound and we saw many.
Across the small marsh waters, dueling for harem dominance were two male Impalas. The battle continued for almost 40 minutes. One aggressor finally gave up the fight, completely exhausted. Though fatigued but uninjured, he was quickly put on the run by the dominant victor. Perhaps he will return to the battle stronger and wiser another day.
We witnessed the misfortune of a lone, lethal Puff Adder snake. He met his demise at the business end of a Secretary birds’ beak. It was also an unlucky time for a young Wildebeest calf, caught at the outer periphery of the migrating herd by an ever watchful, hungry Cheetah. The same fate as was dealt a young Grants Gazelle, whose impatience to leave the grassy safe hiding place it had been left in cost its young life.
Then a female leopard feeding on her recent tree hidden kill. Though difficult to spot, the sound of crunching bone was loud, clear and very convincing of her nearby presence. Finally, a serenely peaceful scene of two leopard cubs resting like rag dolls draped over a tree limb just above our vehicle. We were front row spectators to the wild Serengeti Circle of Life.
There is just so much to experience and learn while on safari in Tanzania.
Every ADS driver/guide is trained to know the entire life cycle as well as the daily habits of each wild citizen of the Serengeti, from the largest elephant to the smallest of the creepy, crawly creatures such as the hardy dung beetle, termites or even the red ants parading in a yards long column.
Our driver, Emmanuel, could name any of the over 500 species of birds that call this part of East Africa home. Most of those he would identify by sight or song. We were surprised to learn that almost four years of study and training is required to become a certified driver/guide (think college degree). As a well trained and dedicated professional Emmanuel was encyclopedic in his knowledge of African wildlife, which is typical of any ADS driver/guide.
Emma would spend hours, if asked, explaining different aspects of wildlife behaviors. One roadside stop lasted almost 30 minutes. We learned the practical facts of termite mound construction and the termites life cycle challenges within that mound. It was informative and fascinating! Thank you Emma!
Upon our arrival at the entry gate of the Ngorongoro crater the park ranger cautioned “Don’t get lonely down there”. During a normal season there would be dozens of safari vehicles in the crater, but that particular day we were the only safari tourists to be seen in the entire Ngorongoro caldera. The animal behavior reflect the scarcity of vehicles loaded with camera toting tourists. Most animals seem now to be uninterested in and completely unperturbed by the occasional visitor.
The current worldwide pandemic has decimated the tourist based economy of Tanzania, posing great challenges for those depending on tourism as a primary resource for their personal success. Some of the most beautiful lodges in which we stayed had but two guests, those being, my wife and myself. Some of those camps would be without guests for days following our stay.
In spite of the lack of large numbers of guests, the enthusiasm of the staff welcome, the food and the facilities remained at the at the very highest level. At each lodge all the staff performance was outstanding and very helpful. Tanzanians are a strong and proud people who, I’m certain, will endure and thrive as we all exit this time of global pandemic.
Bottom line: If you want to see the Serengeti as it was decades ago, then go on safari now or as soon as you are able. Our experience is that ADS is uniquely prepared to provide an unforgettable safari experience, one that you may well find life changing, as we did.
Is Africa Dream Safari 3.0 waiting for us? We certainly hope so.
Bill and Sandy P.
Safari Dates: April 08, 2021 to April 22, 2021