ADS earned our trust, respect, admiration and profound gratitude on our first safari so there was absolutely no question of who to turn to for our second. A safari in the age of Covid sounded daunting, but ADS met every challenge with the same high standards of commitment, excellence and assistance that is their hallmark. This trustworthiness is one of the big reasons we chose ADS again.
Well prepared by Michael and Sharon on what to expect at the Kilimanjaro Airport, we were able to get through it without any problems and were delighted to see Mathias waiting for us outside. With a smile that rose above his mask and into his eyes, he said do you remember me from last time? Of course! We felt like we were home again.
The Coffee Lodge in Arusha is beautiful but yet warm and personal. We made the good decision to book an extra night so we would be better rested for the safari after the long flights from US through Doha to Arusha.
On this ADS safari, we were once again blessed with countless touching, exciting, heart pounding, precious, ‘whisper-wow’ and awe filled moments!
Each of these moments was either made possible or magnified by the fact it was just the two of us and our extraordinary guide, Bernard. The private experience ADS offers was a priceless personal experience both in terms of the animal sightings and the interactions with our guide.
There just aren’t enough accolades for Bernard. He was all about ‘safety first and extraordinary experience always’. He is a fine man of high character and integrity who also happens to have a warm sense of humor, jaw dropping driving skills, eagle eyes and unbounded nature/wildlife knowledge. He instinctively knew not only where to go but also when, anticipating animal movements for great interactions and photo opps. Sharing meals with him was a special part of each day and we always looked forward to it. It was truly an honor to share the experiences with him and learn from him.
Our first trip was in dry season and this one was at the end of wet season. We were stunned by how beautiful, colorful and alive the Serengeti is in the wet season. It often made the sightings more exciting and the photos even more beautiful.
Some highlights: We saw 17 bull elephants, including 5 together with 2 of them engaged in a contest for power. Later, a massive guy walked up directly behind us, crossed the road and ended up taking a long mud bath directly across from our seat window just a few feet away.
Although we had multiple close sightings of large lion prides, one was particularly up close and personal. We watched a pride of 16 walk right next to our vehicle. We were mesmerized as they settled in for their grooming and a nap under a tree just a few feet from where Bernard repositioned us. It was as if we were accepted as part of the pride!
One morning we came upon an amazing display of animal behavior directly in front of us – 3 male giraffes were simultaneously engaged in neck striking somewhere between play and serious power threats. The sounds of the hits had us wincing with each strike.
We saw a large male rhino move through a heard of cape buffalo, then the next day saw a female with her young one. Both certainly amazing but later that afternoon, we watched in astonishment as 4 rhinos shuffled around and then lined up in perfect descending size order. It lasted only a few seconds but we were left speechless to have experienced it.
Thanks to Bernard’s eagle eyes, we had the rare experience of seeing a mamma hippo walking on land, taking her newly born baby back to the river. The miracle of life makes even a cumbersome hippo precious.
The birds were far more prevalent this trip and we loved their diversity and color.
One day, as we approached Lake Masek, we came upon an Egyptian cobra who had the advantage of knowing we were coming before we saw him. He was in the road, raised with hood open in striking position as we roared to a stop. We watched him for what seemed like hours but after about 3-5 real minutes, he slithered off. The average heartbeat rate in the vehicle doubled as we drove off.
One thing about highlights – some we have pictures of, but there are other moments a picture wasn’t possible or we just wanted to appreciate the moment uninterrupted.
Sometimes it was just the feeling of the breeze and the immenseness of the Serengeti. Sometimes it was a profound kindness or shared laughter with staff at a camp. Sometimes it was, knowing the unimaginable hardships over the past 14 months in an underdeveloped country, experiencing the people’s genuine happy, positive and bright welcoming spirits. We are grateful for all of these “invisible” highlights forever etched in our hearts, minds and memories.
Meeting the staffs at the camps (Kirawira, Seronera Sametu Camp, Lake Masek, Lions Paw and Escarpment Luxury Lodge) was a joy each day. We found 3 staff members who were at camps we stayed at last time and we had a wonderful time reminiscing. They delighted in seeing their photos from that trip on our phone. They remembered how they taught us some kiswahili – so we were glad we practiced and expanded before coming this time! They were phenomenal and we will always consider them extended family. The tents were perfectly prepared, immaculately clean and luxurious.
The upgrades to Seronera Sametu and Lion’s Paw are dramatic and beautiful.
The food was once again not only safe, it was delicious and healthy. Even with early game drive departures and us being the only guests, the camp chef and crew prepared a full hot breakfast along with our box lunches and big smiles.
A visit to the Fame Clinic: We had this scheduled when we booked but then as it turned out it was the location of our Covid test required to return to the U.S. After the test we took the tour and it was well worth it. The story of how it came to be and the difference they are making is humbling and inspiring. You can’t walk away dry eyed.
With profound thanks,
we salute ADS and all they do;
With joyful hearts,
we treasure friends, old & new;
With unbounded gratitude,
we thank Bernard for all we saw;
And on bended knee,
we thank God for the awe.
Clayton J. and Donna L.
Kansas City, Missouri
Safari Dates: May 11, 2021 to May 21, 2021