Not Just the Animals: How My Safari Taught Me the Power of People and Patience

When researching initial safari companies, I discovered early that there was a profound difference among ADS and other companies. I received many auto-generated responses during my requests for information, when what I really needed was to speak to someone about the questions I had about booking a safari as a solo traveler. And when I did get a person on the phone, I heard lots of “you can see that on online” or “check the website for information.”

And then there was Dawn Anderson, who immediately became a friend and co-conspirator in planning my perfect safari based on my specific desires and concerns. Over the years of planning, Dawn answered emails and phone calls with gobs on information, helpful links, and videos she made. She never made me feel foolish or dismissed for asking the same question 3 times. And the week before I left, she spent nearly 2 hours on the phone with me tidying up last minute packing tips, tipping expectations, and logistics.

We even exchanged a few wonderful What’sApp messages while I was in Tanzania, as I had to gush about what I was experiencing. I felt like this care and concern demonstrated to me before the safari led me to feel incredibly relaxed and open to what Tanzania would unveil to me.

And then I met Ben. As a solo traveler, I realized immediately the power of bonding with my driver. While I see that ADS guides seem to be universally loved, I know for a fact that Ben is the best! From the moment we met each morning at dawn, Ben took care of everything I could need.

He suggested photo ops that always turned out well; he noticed what I preferred to drink on the first day and had it stocked in the cooler for the rest of the trip; and he suggested magical places for our lunches, including a zebra watering hole and a spot watching a distant rhino inch closer.

Ben’s experience as a guide and as a person ever interested in listening and learning gave me such a perspective of the Serengeti, Tanzania, and the African continent. We spoke of the effects of colonialism, education (I’m a teacher, so I’m curious), geo-political events in neighboring countries, economies, and tourism—and I so enjoyed learning from someone so thoughtful about the world.

We laughed ourselves silly each day, shared several enjoyable meals together in the gorgeous lodges, and talked about the incredible people I continued to meet in Tanzania –and how I wanted to share that with my American friends and family who need a broader world view and understanding of this special country.

And of course, Ben knew everything about safari life, such as what bird makes that call, what is that orange flower on the side of the road, and what is the gestational period of a giraffe. I thought I’d just enjoy animals, but I soon cared greatly about myriad birds and the different types of acacia trees.

But what I will value most is Ben’s instinct of how to catch animals doing wonderful, strange things. Sometimes he’d drive forever, and I’d think we were never going to see another animal ever again, and we’re suddenly in the middle of wildebeests coming late to the migration party. He just “had a sense” they would be there.

We followed a slow male lion walking down the road. Long after I would have peeled off to search for something else, Ben continued to crawl behind him (I so appreciated how he gave all animals space and respect) until the lion led us to the rocks, settled on top, and began roaring (apparently, it’s rare to see a lion do that live?)…see video below.

Even then, I thought, “wow, it can’t get better than that!” and he roared again until his brother—appearing out of nowhere—jumped on the rock and stretched out next to him.

Ben taught me the gift of stillness. If you watch them long enough, they will delight you with silliness, strangeness, and majesty. Because of Ben’s patience, I captured a crown crane dance for his mate, a leopard dozing beneath his kill in a tree, an inexperienced cheetah miss a Thompson gazelle in an insane burst of speed, juvenile male giraffes “necking,” a pride of lionesses bringing their 16 cubs to safety, and an elephant enjoying the juicy top leaves of an acacia tree it had just pushed over.

I believe that going into your safari without demands or expectations will serve you well. Be patient, be observant, and trust those who know Tanzania to teach you of its beauty. You’ll be changed forever by the landscape, the animals, and the people.

When someone asks me now how I chose African Dream Safari, I say it was the people. Dawn singlehandedly got me to Tanzania, and Ben is responsible for my deep desire to return. I Thank you, Dawn and Ben, for your patience, kindness, humor, and genuine warmth that made my trip truly the trip of my lifetime. Asante sana.

Amy L.
Stoughton, Massachusetts
Safari Dates: May 19, 2023 to May 29, 2023

  1. Dawn is beyond amazing as is almost all of the ADS staff. I have been 3 times and hope to fit in one more trip.