Location. Location. Location. The golden rule of real estate is also the golden rule of safari. And ADS put us in the right location.
My wife and I just returned from our 14-day trip with Africa Dream Safaris. We went to the Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater and Lake Manyara. We went late January to the middle of February and had fantastic weather the whole trip. This was during the Green Season and we saw the Great Migration and game viewing was unbelievable.
We landed at the Kilimanjaro Airport and were met by African Dream Safari representatives and, from that moment on, they took care of every single detail. After spending two nights in Arusha we flew to the Grameti Airstrip in the Western Serengeti and met Bennett, our driver-guide, who immediately became our friend. He quickly honed in to what we really wanted to see and do over the next eight days. It became obvious that he had an uncanny ability to know where our favorite wildlife were and he took us there. Although we saw thousands of migrating wildebeest and zebras, most of the pictures which follow are of single, or just a few, of a given species. We were amazed at how close Bennett could get our vehicle to the animals and/or get the animals to come to us.
I’ll make it simple. Go to Africa, Go to Tanzania, go with Africa Dream Safaris. Period. Going on a safari has been a life long dream of my wife and mine and our emotions and expectations were soaring as the days neared. Now I sit at my computer in Miami, with the task of articulating the adventure we just returned from. Well here it goes.
On the 30th of March 2017, my wife and I left the United States on a Bucket List trip to Africa. Our Guide and Guardian Angel of our Dream was Africa Dream Safaris. This proved to be one of the best decisions I have ever made. Throughout our trip, we had occasion to talk with many people on safari and compare what we had vs what they had and by far, ADS is the best.
Margaret and I wanted a big celebration for our 25th wedding anniversary and we eventually settled on a ten day Tanzania Safari created by Africa Dream Safaris. We wanted luxury as well as game drives and so ADS selected the most stunning lodges for our trip. There were no issues with altering the trip to make it exactly how we wanted it, but what we didn’t realize is that the whole trip would be far better than we’d even imagined!
Although our trip officially started at the Arusha Coffee Lodge, for us it began with a flight from Arusha to the north west Serengeti – and even on this flight we saw Zebra and Ostrich on the edge of the runway!
Russell, our ADS driver, met us when we landed, and drove us to our first lodging at Bushtops Serengeti. But this first drive was through the beautiful Serengeti, seeing Zebra, Giraffe, Hippos, Wildebeest, Buffalo, and even Lions; so even before we’d “arrived” we’d had an amazing drive.
Our second days drive took us temporarily into Kenya and offered our first views of Elephants. At first we saw one Elephant in the distance; then later a family group very active just yards away!
Throughout our Safari, this kept occurring – we’d see a great view of animals, and later a better view, and then even better still. Multiple times our view went from needing the provided binoculars, to being so close that a phone camera took National Geographic quality photos!
On our third day we transferred from the North East Serengeti to Central, at the Elewana Pioneer camp. Here our lodging was more tented but still very luxurious with king size bed, private shower, electric lighting…
The transfer drive was amazing as we drove through typical Serengeti plains, to more forested areas, hilly areas – and all the time seeing a constant variety of animals including our first Leopard, again just a few feet from the road. We were stunned too by the sight of eight Lions in a tree.
The Pioneer camp offered very fast internet too, giving a chance to share our experience with friends and family.
Another day, another drive – our first Cheetahs, Baboons trying to chase a Leopard from it’s tree, a pride of 16 Lions, and Elephants on top of rocks!
Our next lodge was Singita Faru Faru in the private Grumeti reserve, which forced us to separate from Russell and the ADS vehicle, and switch to the lodges transport. This change meant sharing the vehicle with other people, being unable to stand for the best views; but instead the vehicle was able to go off the roads which gave our very closest views of animals.
In the Grumeti reserve we also took an interesting walking tour, and an early morning balloon ride which included flying over a herd of more than 100 Elephants.
From Grumeti we flew to Manyara and met back with Russell who drove us to our last lodging at the incredible Ngorongoro Crater Lodge. We clearly had saved the best for last as this lodge has amazing cottage style rooms, constant friendship from the staff, and spectacular views of the crater!
Our drive into the Ngorongoro Crater was exhilarating and once again there were game views almost everywhere. We saw our only Black Rhino view here, rather too distant for good photos but with a calf to make the view more special. Also here we saw our only kill – a “cackle” of Hyena trapped and drowned a lost Buffalo calf but then a nearby Lion pride moved in and took over the kill, dragging it from the water.
Our final day driving from Ngorongoro back to Arusha detoured through the Lake Manyara Park for final views of Zebra, Buffalo, Elephants, Baboons, as well as hundreds of Pelicans.
Other than the end of our trip, there really were no negatives. We’d been concerned before we left USA about insects / bites, about how distant our views would be, about weather / temperature. None of these were an issue.
Insects were almost non-existent on the game drives and lodgings, except at Singita Faru Faru where they were very noticeable at dinner – the choice was lights that attracted them, or darkness with no way to see what you were eating! For some reason many flying insects also got into our room, though the net around our bed kept them from being too annoying.
Temperatures were perfect; during the hot day time the canopy of our ADS vehicle kept us shaded – at night because our Lodgings were all 4,000-5,000 feet altitude, temperatures dropped to very comfortable low 60s or even 50s. On our early morning drive at the Grumeti reserve we definitely needed the provided blankets.
As for the views, almost all animals were seen at least some of the time less than 50 feet from the vehicle – and some views were much closer. I was very pleased with my Nikon Coolpix P900 camera with it’s 2000mm equivalent maximum zoom, but I was also very pleased with the video and photos I was able to take from my iPhone, sometimes.
Our two days at the Singita lodging gave us a flavor of what Safari trips are like from companies other than ADS. With ADS, Russell was our personal driver and guide; he took us where and when we wanted and was a constant friend, providing a major enhancement to our vacation.
We would have been less thrilled with having to share our drives, obey set times and have less control over our days. Additionally, the experience of driving rather than flying from one lodging to another seemed to be a significant benefit in being able to see the changing terrain from one part of Serengeti to another.
Thank you Michael for creating our special trip, and Russell for making it so wonderful!
Ian and Margaret C.
Winter Garden, FL
Safari Dates: November 28, 2016 to December 7, 2016
P.S. It’s hard sometimes when watching a Safari program on television to get a realistic idea of what a Safari drive is like. So here I’ve put together a few videos taken during our trip, using just my iPhone (so these views are close to the truck, not zoomed in from far away!) You can see that the terrain is sometimes grass plain, sometimes more full of trees, sometimes no animals visible and sometimes you have to stop because the animals are blocking the road!
Driving in the Serengeti: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vXkr2o-6gW4
Our plane landed in Kilimanjaro Airport last night with all 9 of us aboard. Our guides were on the tarmac to meet us, walk us through customs in minutes, and escort us to the Mount Meru Resort in Arusha. It was late but the restaurant at the resort remained open just for us to have dinner and then to our rooms for some welcomed rest.
Day 2 (Arusha):
On day 2 we toured Arusha, the 3rd largest city in Tanzania. Our first stop was an elementary school where we visited a 2nd grade classroom. The children were so joyful. Many were bilingual, speaking both Swahili and English. Next we enjoyed the local and unique art at the Heritage Museum and art stores. Our final visit was to a most amazing conclave of artists. All were disabled, blind, or deaf – all gifted self-supporting artists. It was heartwarming to watch them weave, paint, sew, create and mold jewelry, do beadwork and more…
Day 3 (The Western Serengeti):
Early morning we boarded a small private plane in Arusha and had the most spectacular overview of the area as we flew across the Serengeti, landing in the far northwestern portion, to begin our safari. As our small plane landed on the grassy plains, zebra and wildebeest scattered in front of us. Amazing introduction to our adventure. How in the world did Sharon and ADS manage to arrange such an amazing start to our safari?
On this very first safari day we saw – up close and personal – lions, giraffes, zebras ,wildebeest, hippos, baboons, birds which looked like works of art, African Buffalo, hyena, Jackals, warthogs, Thomson’s Gazelle, Grant’s Gazelle, Kirk’s Dik-dik, Topi, Impala, monkey, and even turtles.
Midday, while crossing a river, we witnessed a crocodile take down a zebra who was drinking from the river. The croc methodically pulled him in, drowned him, and proceeded to dissect the insides and carry them to his nest. Whew!
Late this afternoon we arrived at Mbalageti Tented Camp, having already traversed the Musabi Plains and the Grumeti River region. We all settled into our cabins that have breathtaking views overlooking the plains from our hillside verandas. Not exactly “roughing it” at this point. We ate and swam and I think we will all sleep soundly after our 1st day as visitors in the animals’ home turf.
Day 4 (The Western Serengeti):
Up before dawn, we watched the uncompromising African sunrise as we headed out of camp. The best part of another exceptional day of animal encounters was highlighted by the plethora of up close elephant encounters – some as near as ten feet from our 4-wheelers. We watched baby elephants nursing, humongous bull elephants stare us down just a bit shy of petting distance, and whole families of elephants walk by us. Breathtaking moments! After this trip it would be so difficult to see an elephant in a zoo ever again…
We roamed the Ruwana Plains and the Lower Grumeti Woodlands today then returned to camp for a hardy late lunch. Next came the famous 6+ mile Walking Tour of the Serengeti, accompanied by armed Rangers and Swahili Warriors. Near sunset, the hikers joined the less adventurous of our clan at our “Dinner in the Bush” destination with lush table settings, candlelight, bonfire, elegant menu – along with entertainment by baboons in the surrounding trees.
After dinner the kids surprised us with an Anniversary Cake, singing, dancing, and such fun! Quite a memorable 50th anniversary celebration in the African moonlight.
Day 5 (The Central Serengeti):
Today we crossed the Seronera Valley, Makoma Hill, and the Retina Pool en route to our next destination – The Four Seasons Bilila Lodge – not too shabby! On the way there, we spotted our first leopards – such magnificent animals!
Day 6 (The Central Serengeti):
We’ve learned that sunrise is the best time to see the animals. Today we saw the elusive cheetahs, along with all the other majestic animals which are nearly becoming commonplace to us.
Today the kids surprised me with a luxurious massage at the lodge’s Spa. Talk about feeling like “Queen for a Day”… Then tonight after our outdoor dinner by the endless pool, everyone sang Happy Birthday to me as they served me the most decadent 70th Birthday cake – without the fire hazard of that many candles! What a day. What a night! Does it get any better than this?
Day 7 (Ngorongoro Crater):
We pressed on today through the Olduvai Gorge, enjoying sightings along the way. We had the opportunity to visit a Maasai Village . It is hard to even get your arms around the daily life of the Maasai people – it is so very different from ours. The women make the huts from mud, dung, and grasses.
The entire hut is smaller than an average sized dining room back home. There is no heat except a small fire (with no chimney to vent the smoke), no plumbing of any kind, no lighting. Their sole source of food is meat, blood, and goats’ milk. Young boys Ava’s age are out herding the cows and goats from dawn to dusk. They return before dark to bring all the animals inside the Villaage enclosure for safety.
It was a hoot watching our sons join the Maasai Warriors in their “Jumping Contests”. It seems that being the highest jumper in the village is a real “turn on” for the Maasai girls. The Maasai are polygamous. It looked to me as if the women get all the hard jobs. They build the huts, birth and raise the children, cook the meat, etc. Meanwhile, the men take turns guarding the village at night, practicing their jumping skills, and protecting the village in general. Hmmm…
By days’ end we have entered the Lerei Forest, experienced the Moru Kopjes, and Olduvai Gorge. The topography here is unlike any we have experienced to date. It is lush rainforest with cool temperatures.
I wasn’t sure if our gang would like the tents at Lion’s Paw, but to my surprise, they all fell in love with this campsite. We had the whole camp to ourselves and our host, Eddie, made our visit extraordinary. After an elegant dinner, we had smores over the campfire as Eddie told us stories of Africa.
Day 8 (Ngorongoro Crater):
We awoke to a surreal jungle mist as we departed camp, bellies full, winding down the rim to the bottom of the crater. We searched all day for the elusive rhinos, to no avail. We were rewarded for our efforts, though, with ample viewings of lion cubs with their moms, and bachelor lions galore within several feet of our two jeeps, along with all the other resident animals.
One of our guides, Pokea, is so extraordinary at spotting a plethora of camoflauged animals that we have nicknamed him “Eagle-Eye”. Our other guide, Bennett, is Mr. Personality and has a heart as big as all outdoors! Incredible team!
After a marvelous dinner, we again got busy making our signature cheetah smores with wine chasers. As we say good night and climb into our tented beds, we can hear the night sounds of the animals outside our tents.
Day 9 (Lake Manyara):
Where did the time go? Can we already be nearing the end of our journey? One last area of protected National Park to explore as we make our way back to Arusha gives us lots of laughs watching the baboons’ antics especially.
Then, miles of farmland with corn stalks, sunflowers (they make oil out of these), coffee plantations, with occasional pauses along the way as cows and goats cross the roads, accompanied by young boys guiding and coaxing them along.
We arrived in Arusha late afternoon, to be given four rooms again at the Mt. Meru Resort to shower and rest before dinner and the journey to Kilimanjaro. We said good-bye to Mt. Kilimanjaro at sunset. It looked absolutely surreal. What a dramatic farewell to Africa!
Asante Sana, Tanzania…La La Salama.
Cynda E. and Family
The Villages, Florida
Safari Dates: June 1, 2016 to June 7, 2016
P.S. This celebration trip was truly “over the top” for all of us, thanks to the attention to detail throughout our journey by ADS. We have been blessed to be able to travel quite a bit since we retired, and I can honestly say that no other trip compares to this one.
Thank you to all the staff at ADS and especially our guide Roman, for such a wonderful trip to Africa. It was a stellar and obstacle free adventure in Tanzania. Within the first hours of arriving in the Northern Serengeti, all our expectations had been exceeded.
The amount of wildlife within easy viewing was staggering, and to see great herds of Wildebeests mixed with Gazelles, Zebras, Warthogs, Baboons and sated Lions – it is unimaginable. We viewed the Great Migration crossing several times and each time we saw more details and activity.
Our guide Roman spotted the wildlife quickly, and he did so much more – he taught us how to look, the preferred terrain, predatory behaviors, grouping and bonding relationships, whether the animal was healthy or just ate, and their all-telling poop! We all participated in the great hunt and each day was electric and richer in what we saw and understood.
Roman answered our barrage of questions on flora, fauna, geology and history; no question seemed out of his universe. We trusted Roman’s patience and were rewarded by seeing cheetah, lion and jackal kills throughout the week. He also positioned the jeep for best photography light and composition.
Both guides Roman and Francis treated our group to a coffee break each morning with gorgeous, smooth freshly pressed Kilimanjaro coffee. We were so spoiled by the private jeeps, cushioned seats, shaded canopy, big binoculars, drinks, ample box lunches, the luxury tents and dinners.
We were constantly aware of how well designed the ADS safari was; as we passed the other safari tour operators we saw tired, sun-exposed, dusty people crammed into jeeps, few binoculars, sullen faces, sitting down with little spark, and their guides were not conversant.
The African Dream Safari experience was home-style comfort, lively, inquisitive and non-stop wildlife viewing. Thank you again and again!!
Bonita and Drake L.
September 7, 2016 to September 14, 2016
A special thanks to returning guests Barry and Sandy C. from Titusville, Florida who submitted this extraordinary video recap of their safari. Barry and Sandy traveled with ADS on a 10 night Hemingway safari itinerary from September 5, 2016 to September 15, 2016. They explored the Serengeti National Park, Ngorongoro Crater and Tarangire with their guide Claude. Some of the highlights include:
4:00 minutes – Wildebeest crossing the Mara River
7:30 minutes – A rare sighting of a mother and calf rhino in the North Serengeti
20:45 minutes – Two baby leopard cubs in the Central Serengeti
21:15 minutes – The mother leopard tackling a gazelle in the Central Serengeti
33:25 minutes – Lions hunting wildebeest in the Ngorongoro Crater
This was an amazing trip. I am lucky enough to be able to travel all over the world several times a year. This safari will go to the top of the list as one of my best trips ever. Our ADS guide, Roman, was terrific. He watched out for us and was a world of info regarding the animals and their behavior. He seemed to have a sixth sense as to when to sit and wait, “something is going to happen here”, which made the experience so much better. The hotels and lodges were all wonderful, the people warm and friendly, the food tasty and abundant. The vehicles perfect for picture taking and comfort.
As for the game drives, to be among these amazing animals, in their world, is both a privilege and humbling. When you see them in their natural habitat, you are amazed at how perfectly they fit into their environment. You understand why they look like they do and the logic behind their behavior. To see the herds of elephants, hippos, prides of lions, zebras, giraffes, wilder beast, all the herd animals, all the different types of cats, monkeys and birds, in their environment was thrilling. We never knew what would happen next, and every moment was an adventure.
ADS does a wonderful job of providing a quality safari. It will be a fond memory for the rest of my days.
We have just completed our second safari with ADS and with our outstanding guide, Francis. Last time we went at the end of January during the green season. This time we went in August which is the dry season. This time we traveled with our niece and nephew and their 2 kids, 11 and 13. It was great seeing all of this again through their eyes. Although it was all very exciting for us-it was such fun watching them take it all in for the first time.
We started out in the North by the Mara River. The wildebeest are up there now for the water and it was an amazing sight. Wildebeest as far as the eye can see. We also had an extremely rare sighting-a baby rhino!!! This was a first, even for Francis who has been at this for some time. We felt very honored.
This was also our first experience with the semi-permanent camps and I will say we were a little apprehensive about, what we loving called, shower-in-a-bucket. Let me assure you, many of our favorite times were at Sametu Camp where we wanted to move in. J.J. and Kidevu made us feel so welcome and treated us like family from the moment we got there to the moment we, sadly, had to leave.
At Mara River Camp, Gilbert and Tony extended hospitality that made us feel right at home and oh so comfortable. These places will be memories we will talk about forever.
This trip varied from our January one in that we saw babies of just about every species. We saw mamas nursing, mamas grooming, mamas hiding their babies, we even saw young male elephants jousting. We saw two lion cubs playing with what looked to be a mud flap off a vehicle. One of the cubs came over and started to gnaw our tire-guess he wanted another toy.
Once again we saw the Big 5 and all their babies. Hopefully on our next trip the babies will be all grown up.
Nancy and Lenny M.
The Villages, Florida
Safari Dates: August 12, 2015 to August 21, 2015
Going on safari was on my wish list and I discussed partaking in this type of trip with a friend who wanted to see the animal migration in Africa. Through research she discovered African Dream Safaris and suggested we use them.
From my initial encounter with Dawn Anderson through the detailed planning, thought the safari and follow up I have been delighted that we selected African Dream Safaris for this adventure. The treatment of the planning through execution of this trip has been of the highest professional and warm quality of any experience of my life.
We planned the trip a year before. I never had planned a trip so far in advance. It was a joy to receive my packet with a t-shirt, safari hat, map and a book describing the trip and any details that we would need to address to make this trip safe, exciting and successful.
There are so many details to consider on this type of adventure from travel logistics, to health concerns, to accommodation choices, to what to bring and what to expect. Everything was covered with wonderful support by Dawn Anderson and Cathy King.
Staying 24 hours in Amsterdam while traveling each direction made the travel much easier.
We were met at the airport in Kilimanjaro immediately and guided through customs efficiently. Our greeter and driver were wonderful. The African Tulip was a great boutique hotel that welcomed us to Africa. We happily stayed 2 nights to help us through jetlag. Our flight to the Serengeti was smooth and I was delighted to meet our guide Russell Thomas Temu.
I loved Russell from the moment that I met him. He was smiling, confident and accommodating. I never imagined that the safari adventure could be as breathtaking and educational as it was. Russell’s wealth of knowledge enabled me to understand how nature all works to continue the cycles of land, insects, animals, etc. His joy of discovery was obvious. Even though he’s a seasoned guide, Russell brings a passion and delight in seeing and sharing the animals and nature at all times. I felt honored to spend the safari time learning from Russell and sharing the excitement each day of our discoveries. It was truly an honor to have this time with him.
My best day was when we toured from Lake Masek. We saw a pregnant cheetah and there were about 5 other vehicles around. Russell saw the cheetah making a move and suggested that we sit down and get quiet. Sure enough, she jumped on the hood of our vehicle and remained visiting with us for quite awhile. Russell’s knowledge and vision to see the animals was superb.
The accommodations at every place we stayed were terrific. I especially loved the tenting camps that placed us in the middle of the animals. Getting into bed with a hot water bottle was such a special touch. The food and service was fabulous at every place we stayed. I loved hearing the lions roar all night and then seeing them in the morning.
I’ve fallen in love with my African experience and love to return. I thank African Dream Safaris for all of the ways they made this journey so inspiring, safe, exciting and fun.
Delray Beach, Florida
Safari Dates: February 24, 2015 to March 8, 2015
What an amazing safari! It far exceeded the expectations of the eight of us who traveled together to Tanzania. Our guides, Anglebert and Elson, have eagle eyes and a sixth sense. They can spot animals and anticipate their actions well before we could tell there was wildlife nearby. From the first day when we saw the wildebeest crossing the Mara River to the end of the safari when we saw the rare caracal, our days were magical and our nights enjoyable. Thanks to Dawn and ADS for expert planning and Anglebert and Elson for being such caring and talented guides.
Jim and Ellen G.
Safari Dates: August 15, 2014 to August 24, 2014