From our initial inquiry to the end of our Safari experience, Africa Dream Safaris has proven to be a company that knows how to make your trip a seamless experience of exciting and memorable moments. Michael and his staff were quick to respond to our questions, filling us in on so many details that even we were surprised when we simply had nothing left on our list to digest!
On our arrival in Arusha we were met by Faith, from ADS who quickly got us through immigration (so happy that we arranged this, as the line up was extensive) and on to our hotel where we spent the first evening resting from our 20 hour flight. The following morning was Day 1 of our actual Safari where we again were met by Faith who had the Land Rovers all ready for our drive to the local airport where the bush plane was waiting for our excursion to the Serengeti.
Flying over the land we glanced at the landscape and noticed dark spots, interesting looking crop circles and endless plains. Little did we know that the dark spots were indeed wildebeest (by the number), crop circles were the enclosures made of sticks, reeds and mud that surround the Maasai’s homes to keep their livestock in and the predators out, and of course the endless plain is “The Serengeti”.
Upon landing we were met by our guide, Anglebert who was to remain with us for the entire Safari. If you were wondering how effective this is, I can tell you that having the consistency, the reliability, and the sheer knowledge and enthusiasm that he provided truly made our Safari the best possible experience we could imagine. In fact, upon our farewell, the entire group shed a few tears for this special man, and he responded with a few of his own.
I should point out that our Safari was a custom journey. We traveled with our good friends from Calgary, Alberta and designed this trip based on the best areas to be in during September to view the Great Migration. We had a Land Rover equipped with a pop up roof and tented cover that was absolutely perfect for taking pictures and also keeping the sun off of your heads. Most of our accommodations were in the North and Central part of the Serengeti as well as the Ngorongoro Crater area and finishing with Tarangire. Our accommodations were a combination of luxury lodges and what we would call ‘glamping’ – an upscale form of tenting.
Each camp was a unique experience, but I will say that the staff made each experience most memorable. I truly believe that there is no other company that will create a custom venture for you that will satisfy your every desire like Africa Dreams. They know how to finish like a champion. The Safari experience is like no other.
After one year of extensive planning and having expectations of seeing “The Big 5”, we were overwhelmed from our first day upon seeing so many different types of animals that we had to keep journals just to remember the names and the slight variations. Anglebert had keen eyes for the wildlife, and also a knowledge about each animal – their lifestyle, hunting habits, as well as local population, and that kept us interested and wanting to learn more. The first question I am asked after saying that is “If you see all of this on day one, aren’t the rest of the days a disappointment?” Oh my goodness that couldn’t be the furthest from the truth – after all each day is unique – the wildlife you see is different, or in different situations, and provide for unlimited viewing, entertainment, and photo opportunities.
One of the most memorable moments (and there are many), was our first encounter with lions. The male and female were both relaxing under a large bush when after a few minutes the female arose from her nap and began to circle the sleeping male. This of course was designed to wake him, and waken he did, as he mounted the female within a few seconds from his deep slumber and performed his deed within fifteen seconds. If you didn’t have the camera ready, you would have missed it. When he finished he gave a wonderful growl which was mirrored by the female. How exciting to see nature, and truly the circle of life come to fruition with this beautiful couple.
All of the animals were enchanting, but the giraffe was so captivating. They come in a variety of color depths – from very light brown to almost chocolate brown spots. We came across many different shades in our travels, but my favorite encounter was a lone dark brown giraffe reaching high into a sausage tree with his blue tongue to grasp those tender green leaves. We quietly watched as he maneuvered around those large bulbous succulent fruits that drop from the tree and release seeds as the pulp rots.
The elephants come to collect the fruits when they fall and we have seen the fruits gathered by the Maasai and taken to the market to sell. These fruits can be up to 36” long and are reported to be poisonous unless it is baked or the seeds are roasted. I also hear that in African herbal medicine the fruit is used to treat a variety of ailments/diseases as well as aid in the fermentation of beer!! Who knew!
So many of the small animals are not as easily spotted, or easy to capture on film as they seem to be in constant motion, but early one morning our guide spotted two little ears peeking up from the grasses. A few moments later this beautiful serval cat popped his head up and we got what we call “National Geographic” like photos of this gorgeous cat. Servals use their long ears to detect movement in the grasses, then stand and pounce on their prey – usually a small rodent or frog. He is stunning in his natural environment.
Most every morning we were up at 5 am and after a large warm breakfast we were met by our driver Anglebert who would suggest that we be ready to leave by 6 to capture the best movement and the best lighting for photography and viewing. Not knowing what was in store for us this morning we dragged ourselves into the jeep and obliged. We drove through the long grasses, on fairly rutted road to capture the most stunning sight as the sun was just lifting through the horizon. Our leopard was perched on a termite mound for quite some time, offering incredible still shots for our cameras.
After getting absolutely perfect shots of him there, he began a short trek across the yellow grasses to sit for another photo opportunity, then meandered through the grasses to a tree in the vicinity and began circling the tree. Anglebert had told us to keep our camera focused on the tree, not the animal, so we were able to get shots of this magnificent creature clawing his way up the tree and then securing a comfortable spot to lay his head down and rest…the pictures can’t describe how beautiful he was as he lay so smoothly on that tree branch. Nature has a way of making each animal so unique that they have the ability to hunt and capture food for sustenance but also have the characteristics to keep themselves hidden from other predators…so beautiful.
I mentioned earlier in my writing about how the staff was so instrumental in making your evening at the camps so special. We had one jovial man by the name of JJ who upon asking what we might be having for dinner one evening he responded with a straight face that we were to have “Acacia Tree Soup” followed by “Cape Buffalo Stew”….then he laughed his face off and told us he was just joking! We had such fun with him though and he spent part of his evening teaching us all some Swahili so that we could surprise Anglebert with our knowledge.
We now consider Swahili our second language thanks to JJ who taught us several words that evening. We tested our words out the next day with Anglebert when I said in my loudest voice – “sismama tafadhali” which means stop please. Anglebert practically blew out the brakes when he heard me speak Swahili, then started laughing realizing that we really did pick something up while at camp that evening. Patti, (our friends we were traveling with) said “twende” – which means, let’s go – got Anglebert on the road once again – this time with a little smile on his face.
Lemala Kuria Hills was also a favorite – not only for it’s beauty in this natural setting, but also for it’s staff who with the guidance of Tabby, the resident manager, arranged for a special “sundowner” for us in the evening. She led us to a large “kopjes” formation (rock outcropping) where there were several large colorful pillows spread out for seating with ‘tables’ of wood stumps where we were to place our drinks. Here we were treated to cocktails and hors d’oeuvres while watching the sun go down…absolutely stunning evening. So many of the other guests at the camp were envious of our private setting that they ended up joining us on the kopje. Moses was especially attentive to my husband who was spoiled with his favorite Jim Beam and seven up.
There are so many animal experiences which are worthy of mention, however our stop at the Maasai village was a highlight of our trip. I’m not sure how long these wonderful people will be able to maintain their traditional values and customs, but I feel very privileged to have been to see their “bomas” which are their traditional homes made by the women of the community consisting of sticks, grass and cow dung.
We were met by the Chief’s son who took us to a traditional dance where I was invited to dance with the women who presented me with a gorgeous beaded necklace – about 4” wide. The idea was to be able to flip the necklace up and down while jumping – this is much harder than it looks and I brought them all to laughing hysterically as I attempted to jump and flip the necklace with enthusiasm. (Note to self – this would be a great time to wear a sports bra).
Our guide Anglebert had talked about the Maasai with us before we met them, and told us about many of their customs, but seeing it in person is a life changing experience. The Maasai are nomadic people who live customarily in Northern Tanzania and Kenya. Their dress is very distinctive wearing colorful shukas (blanket like garments in a variety of bold colors) along with gorgeous beading around their necks and on their ears. The beading patterns that they wear are determined by age, so you can imagine how ornate some of the older women were.
The young girls are responsible for rising early (before their mothers) to collect firewood and water for their family. The older women are the creators of the traditional home (boma) which are only large enough for sleeping and cooking. We were told by the Chief’s son that the small goats are also welcome in the home. Inside the boma it was very dark with a small fire burning which kept the temperature to a balmy 100 degrees. We were immediately finding sweat rolling down our cheeks as he was explaining how the bomas protected them from the heat of the day.
The women and children work on beading most of the afternoon as a social time while the young men – ages 7 to 16 are taught to tend to the livestock and are found walking up to ten miles per day locating grazing areas for their animals. The wealth of the Maasai is determined by how many cows he has. The more cows, the more wives he can choose. When we finished our tour with the Chief’s son he mentioned that we might purchase some beaded jewelry from his wife – but if we purchased from one wife we must also purchase something from the other – otherwise he might be in trouble not providing for the other wife’s welfare. We left with some lovely bracelets – one from each wife.
Our final stop was at the Tarangire Tree Tops Tented Lodge – something that I have been looking forward to for years. This special camp is situated in the northern part of Tarangire National Park. From the moment you arrive you know you are in a magical spot. The large baobab tree which is in the center of the reception area is a sight to behold – running right through the roof, and measuring over 20 feet at the base. It is beautifully furnished with comfortable sitting areasand a large square fire pit in the center of the main building.
This camp has a water hole for animals right outside of the main building where every evening you can capture zebra, elephant, baboons by the hundreds, and waterbucks. Our dinners here were fine dining at it’s best – while sitting in a large ‘boma’ style area under a massive baobab tree, complete with white linen and crystal and a warm fire to add to the atmosphere.
On our final evening the staff made a special table with the words “karibu” (welcome) spelled out in leaves and seeds as we dined by the pool in front of the water hole. After finishing our meal we were to go on a night safari drive but before we left we were delighted with a serenade by all of the staff who presented us with a ‘farewell cake’ and danced and sang African songs around our table for several minutes. This lovely gesture by Africa Dream Safaris was certainly putting the ‘icing on the cake’ here! It brought tears to our eyes as we knew our Safari was coming to a close.
Our Safari experience was exceptional in every way. The overall agenda, the guide, Anglebert, and our seamless travel from airport to safari and back were all due to the careful attention of Africa Dream Safaris whom I believe are ‘specialists’ in making this a trip of a lifetime for anyone.
We met other Africa Dream Safari groups that we bonded with at several locations by an evening fire, at breakfast in the morning and on our Safari itself who had the same experience and were loving every moment.Thank you again for the ultimate travel experience, and thank you to Anglebert for sharing his love of this fabulous country. Kwaheri (goodbye).
Glenn & Debbie B.
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Safari Dates: September 11, 2014 to September 20, 2014