Our trip to Tanzania was spectacular and ADS certainly played a large role in ensuring that was the case. Dawn Anderson was referred to us by good friends who travelled to Tanzania twice. During our first call with Dawn, we knew we had found the right person and safari company as Dawn listened to what we wanted and meticulously planned our trip, leaving no detail to chance. Dawn was knowledgeable, incredibly responsive and patient. This was very important to us, as we had never been to TZ before and had lots of questions, many really detailed and specific to our needs. As a result, we left for Tanzania in early February confident there would be “no surprises” and this was first borne out as soon as we landed.
We arrived at Kilimanjaro airport after having traveled for 27 hours, and were met by a representative from ADS who went over the details of our safari, made sure that we were comfortable with all of our plans, and also told us a little about what to expect in terms of the photography opportunities in each of the regions we were visiting.
After a brief flight, we arrived in the Seronera Valley where we were met by our guide Roman. It was apparent that Roman had been briefed about our interests, as he was prepared for a full day game drive, including bringing lunch for us. Knowing that we were interested in seeing and photographing wildlife, especially ‘big cats” Roman made sure that we had our cameras out and ready to go before we left the airstrip.
Actually, this wasn’t a coincidence as Roman knew there were female lions less than 500 yards from the airstrip feasting on a buffalo kill. A great start to the day and safari! Incredibly, not more than five minutes after we left the lions, we spotted a serval cat in the tall grass just off the road.
I jokingly said to Roman that after 15 minutes, we had pretty much seen all I wanted to and that we could head back to the airstrip and go home!
Our incredible first afternoon continued when, while looking for a shady spot for lunch, we spotted a handsome male lion (okay, maybe his hair needed a brushing) sitting high up on a rock).
After lunch, Roman noticed a leopard’s kill hanging in a tree but no leopard. Roman knew she’d be back and when we returned later in the day, we saw a leopard mother and cub climbing into the tree .
Finally, as the first day drew to a close, and we were heading to our lodge, we came across three cheetahs, wandering around just off the road.
Needless to say, it was quite an eventful first day – we saw four of the big five (if a dead buffalo counts).
As mentioned, we began our safari in the Seronera Valley at Kubu Kubu Tented Lodge. It was well located, as were all of the properties Dawn recommended. In each of the 5 lodges, the camp managers and staff were incredibly friendly and went out of their way to accommodate our every request.
Our days were full, beginning before sunrise and ending after sunset. One of our Seronera Valley days ended with a surprise – as we neared camp, we came around the bend in the road and were surprised by a large male elephant not more than 10 feet away. He was large but had a short trunk which our guide Roman explained had likely been damaged in a snare. He was ready to mate and his posture was aggressive.
Roman warned us to get a couple of quick pictures and set the truck up perfectly to do so – knowing this was not going to be a lengthy photo opportunity. Needless to say, after a couple of quick photos the elephant became aggressive, clearly wanting to be left alone. We respected his space and we headed to camp so was to not disturb him. We felt completely safe at all times, during this encounter and throughout our 2+ week safari – in the truck and in the lodges.
Leopards and baby cheetahs topped our list of “must see” animals. There was a day where we raced from one leopard sighting to the next, not always successful, but that’s part of the fun. There are no guarantees and oftentimes those with the most patience are rewarded with the best sightings! Also, being the green season, the grass was so high in places that it’s possible that the cats were close but hidden. On this particular day we were able to see a leopard up in a tree which was an awesome sighting but a challenge to photograph.
Later that day, our persistence paid off with one of the highlights of our trip. Roman raced to an area where he had heard there was a leopard sighting. We arrived and saw nothing. After waiting a bit, we saw a head pop out of the grass confirming that a leopard was still there.
We sat by the tree, cameras ready and waited. Finally, we were rewarded as the leopard climbed up the small tree and spread out on a low branch, seemingly posing for us.
We left as the sky darkened with an approaching thunderstorm. We didn’t know it at the time, but our day was not over. As we approached our next lodge, Seronera Sametu Camp, we encountered a group of lions, 2 moms and 5 cubs, by the edge of the road.
They were so playful, running around, wrestling, jumping on each other. It ended when one of the mom’s made a sound the cubs recognized as “playtime is over” and they started to wander off. We were so engrossed in watching that we almost missed an unbelievable sun set and sky – it looked like the sky was on fire.
This day sums up our trip – by being a little patient, and trusting our professional guide’s recommendations, we were rewarded with awesome sightings.
Throughout our safari we were fortunate enough to see many cheetahs including a coalition of three enjoying a kill.
Another highlight for us was a cheetah mom and two of the most adorable cubs you’ve ever seen.
The mom had a kill which the cubs were too young to eat. Instead, they took turns playing and climbing all over her. We couldn’t get enough, and sat watching and photographing them for a long time, including during a rain shower when the cubs were drenched and looked even smaller.
The afternoon flew by and before we knew it, Roman suggested we head back to the lodge. Another spectacular day!
While we could write a book about our experiences, there are a few other memorable sightings we’d like to share. We were fortunate to see lions mating and, once again, Roman positioned the truck perfectly so we were able to see and get awesome photos.
Soon after, the skies turned dark and Roman, knowing how saturated the roads already were, tried to outrace the rain – no such luck… in fact, by Boma Rock, our truck got stuck in the mud. We were helped out very quickly by another guide who was close by with his guests watching two lions perched on a rock.
Free from the mud, we rounded the corner, and our luck got even better. The sun came out, the late afternoon light was amazing and we saw 4-5 cubs up on a rock looking down at us.
The next morning, as we headed to our next lodge, in almost the exact same spot we saw the lions and cubs playing in the road, we saw an exquisite serval cat who amazingly was very calm and stood next to the road watching us while we watched him!
In closing – Dawn, Roman and everyone at ADS went above and beyond to plan and execute the safari of our dreams.
Now it’s time to start thinking about the next one!
Bill and Joanna K.
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Safari Dates: February 11, 2022 to February 25, 2022