We had been looking forward to this trip for a long time, having booked two years in advance and then delaying a year due to Covid concerns, so by the time we got to Tanzania our anticipation had been growing for three years. And to be honest, so had our anxiety over travel to a strange place during strange times.
However as soon as we were greeted by ADS staff as we deplaned in Kilimanjaro, shepherded through another Covid test and then whisked off to the Arusha Coffee Lodge for a welcome night’s sleep, we quickly relaxed realizing that we were in experienced hands, well prepared to take care of everything for us. The next morning we flew to Seronera Airstrip in Central Serengeti to start our 12 day safari.
The wonderful thing about working with ADS is that it really is a custom safari. We were able to work with Dawn at ADS to customize and adjust our itinerary to our liking while taking advantage of the company’s (and Dawn’s) extensive experience of Tanzania, the Serengeti, the camps and the changes that occur with the seasons each year.
We chose March because it is the “green” season and we see enough brown in New Mexico. March is somewhat in between the short rain and long rain seasons, which meant we got lots of lush green landscapes with only a few rain drops and a reasonable compromise between muddy vs dusty roads.
At Seronera our group, consisting of friends Janey and Suzi, myself and daughter Milena, was joined by our guide (and new best-friend-forever) Emmanuel. Within minutes of leaving the airstrip we were seeing impala, hippos, giraffes, dik-dik and our first leopard!
The fun continued as we explored northward, and Emmanuel’s knowledge of the area and the resident lion prides brought us to our first lions and some wonderful photo-ops of them basking in the late afternoon sun.
As we headed back to our first lodgings at Seronera Sametu Camp radio chatter between the guides led us to a mother cheetah and her cubs feeding on a recent kill as dusk fell. Can’t complain for just the first day!
But wait, there’s more! On day two my hopes for some photographic “keepers” were realized in spades. We started off encountering a lioness and her cubs enjoying sunrise in the long grass next to the road.
Shortly thereafter we watched the mama cheetah of the previous night as she strolled through the grass with her cubs trailing behind. Need more? Next up was a “honeymooning” lion couple in the midst of mating. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a male lion smile before, nor have I seen one back off so quickly from a lioness!
Untold photos later, at the end of the day Emmanuel brought us back to a tree where we knew a leopard was resting so that we could get some photos in the soft light of the setting sun. What a way to end the day!
What can I say? For the next 11 days Emmanuel led us on an adventure through the Central Serengeti, Ngorongoro Conservation area, South Serengeti/Lake Masek/Lake Ndutu region, Ngorongoro Crater and Lake Manyara.
We would get up early each morning for a quick breakfast and be off at sun rise, exploring various dirt roads, searching short grass areas for cheetahs and in the bushes and on top of kopjes (rock outcroppings) for lions.
It seemed that whenever we said to Emmanuel something like “I’d like to see a baby elephant” or “Will we see lion cubs?” he would take a fork in the road and deliver our request within minutes.
All-in-all we saw everything on the typical wildlife “check list” with the exception of mongoose and African wild dog (and jokingly, Emmanuel also failed to find us any tigers, polar bears or penguins.) We saw lions every day, often several prides, and on one morning I think we counted 24 lions (including a pride with a male, eight lionesses and 7 cubs) within the first hour.
Finally, I think the most delightful surprise of the whole trip is how much fun we had together, in large part because of how comfortable we felt in Emmanuel’s care. The five of us chattered and joked together throughout the trip, and we all learned so much from Emmanuel’s knowledge about the area.
The wonderful thing about a private safari with a company like ADS is that you can adapt to the circumstances on a day to day basis. Emmanuel would always go over the next day’s activities with us at dinner and adjust the plans if we preferred a shorter day, a later start or a split morning and afternoon game drive with nap time in between.
We can’t thank him enough for taking such good care of us and teaching us so much. Additional thanks to Dawn and all of the staff at ADS for arranging such a memorable trip and making it all happen without a glitch.
Peter and Milena E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Safari Dates: March 4, 2022 to March 16, 2022