On arrival in Kilimanjaro airport, we were met by escorts and facilitated through customs. I think I may have sent some worrisome signals about what ADS was getting into with us when one of my first acts was tripping over a step and doing a total face plant in the reception area. All around hurried to my rescue and fortunately the only damage was to my dignity!
As you had warned could happen, our luggage did not make it to Kilimanjaro with us. We met Esther who communicated with airport staff and got the information and documentation to make sure our bags would get to us eventually. She then collected us and what we did have, and saw to it that we were well and safely herded to our vehicle and delivered to the Arusha Coffee Lodge.
As our flight arrangements got us in a day early for the safari, Esther organized a fun first day with a tour of the Arusha open market, and then on to the Cultural Center where my first priority was some tanzanite treasure for our daughter. She also managed to secure our delayed luggage and have it brought to the lodge. The next morning, Esther escorted us to the Arusha airport and made sure we got off to Seonera in the Serengeti.
Our reception there went smoothly and we were introduced to our guide. With that meeting, our comments go immediately into superlatives. Fadhal was the very best combination of knowledge, skills and affability. His knowledge of his beloved Serengeti was more than extensive. He knew the land so well: we wandered off the tracks when he would spot animals way in the distance, and he’d head directly for them. I couldn’t imagine, when we were so far afield, how he’d get us safely back! No worries: whatever compass Fadhal has in his head is infallible!
His understanding of the animals made it seem like he could get in their heads: what their age and gender were, what they were reacting to, what they had been up to and what they were likely to do next! Fadhal also knew enough about photography, Gene’s main interest, to line up the best possible angles and lighting so Gene was able to capture an incredible range of photos of the most amazing animals and their lives! Fadhal’s communication skills allowed him to convey to us the depth of his knowledge of all the animals we saw- from dragonflies and butterflies to elephants!
We learned so much from him. And the ability for him to join us at dinner made for a wonderful wrap up of the day’s activities and many very thoughtful and informative conversations about his country, its history and its peoples. He provided so much enrichment to our safari experience with his knowledge and his calm, observant reflections on issues large and small.
His skills weren’t limited to the animals: his handling of the vehicle and his driving skills inspired great confidence. He even had to deal with a flat tire and generously used his vehicle’s power to pull out two other drivers whose vehicles were stuck in the mud! Many times, it looked as if we were about to go under with the extent and depth of the muddy tracks, but Fadhal’s unerring aim kept us going smoothly throughout!
I’d like to add that the vehicle was a significant contributor to our comfort and confidence. Its size made it feel very safe, even when, at my favorite moment, a friendly lion came within a foot of my (open!) window! It was remarkably clean and well maintained and, amazingly for the “African massage” Fadhal warned us about, did not have the squeaks and rattles that I would have expected.
The lodging choices were a delight. Our initial stay was at Arusha Coffee Lodge. The reception staff were warm and welcoming, a trait we came to enjoy throughout. It’s a beautiful setting with the dining room looking out on a peaceful blue pool. Our ‘cabin’ was very comfortable and well appointed. We experienced a horrifically intense thunderstorm and rain that night: it felt like we were sleeping under Niagara Falls! But when we got up the next morning and took coffee on our delightful porch, we watched the monkeys scamper down the trees and head off for breakfast. So we did too!
The next stop was Seronera Sametu Camp. Jonas and his crew were a real treat, as was their food and lodging. I had no idea what to expect from a ‘tented’ camp but making our first acquaintance there was a pleasure. Moving on to Woodlands Camp extended the experience. The staff there was particularly warm and engaging. A charming young man, called Bob, I believe, as a part of the nighttime farewell read us a poem he had written, and gave us a copy. I really enjoyed talking with him afterward.
Lake Masek Lodge was also beautifully sited, above the lake. The dining area allowed us to enjoy the view. Our Masai escorts at night, and their presence during the day added to the charm. Lion’s Paw Lodge continued the comfort and food delights. Then Escarpment Lodge also provided a lovely setting with views of the lake below and scattered homes, and beautiful sunsets, to the West.
The rooms were very nice and the dining was excellent, with particular flair to the food. They had made an exception to the automatic inclusion of our guide everywhere else, and we advised them to include him for dinner and breakfast with us. Time with Fadhal was getting short and we were reluctant to miss any of it.
Our nights at Lake Duluti Lodge were a wistful finale to our safari. The lodge was as easy and comfortable, the staff as accommodating and the setting as beautiful as anywhere else we had been. It was just hard to come to terms with the end of our time with all of it.
I hadn’t anticipated we would be able to be with Esther and Fadhal that additional day, but I was very grateful. They helped me solve the problem of my damaged suitcase, took me to the Cultural Center (for more shopping) and shared a meal with me there. Then having Fadhal be our escort to Kilimanjaro and the airport gave us a welcome extra bit of time in his company. Waving farewell at the airport was sweet and sorrowful.
However it is that ADS attracts and keeps such staff with the knowledge, skills and abilities, and all that warmth and charm that makes them such great company – please keep it up!
I would just add that the communications with you made it very easy to organize our trip. Your extensive write-ups of what to pack and what to expect made a big difference in my comfort levels about the trip. The Whats App communication link was a reassuring bit of connection that made my daughter feel she was not out of touch with us even though we were so far away.
So other than all the above, I can’t think of a single thing I can add to describe what a fabulous experience you and all of ADS made possible for Gene and me. We are deeply appreciative!
Sharon and Gene G.
Los Angeles, California
March 23, 2023 to April 1, 2023.