Over two years ago my neighbor and good friend mentioned over a glass of wine that she’d always wanted to go on an African safari and sleep in tents in the wild African countryside. We were both newly retired and both wanted to do some traveling, so I jumped on the idea and started researching safari companies. It didn’t take me long to narrow the choices, and ultimately I contacted Africa Dream Safaris.
From our first contact, Sharon Lyon (aka Mama Simba) promptly responded to all my inquiries and worked with me to design the perfect safari for us. We soon found two more friends interested in joining us, so the four of us finalized all the details and dates, then waited anxiously for a year and a half for our dream to become a reality.
Our arrival at Kilimanjaro Airport was just as described. We were met by Faith, a wonderful, warm representative of ADS. We were whisked through the visa process and soon were on our way to Mount Meru Resort in Arusha by our driver, Peter. We also met Timon and Matteas, other members of the greeting staff, who made sure we felt welcome and informed of what would be happening as we started our African adventure. The accommodations at Mount Meru were luxurious and our scheduled layover day in Arusha was just what we needed to rest up for our trip to the Serengeti.
The following morning we boarded our bush plane. We made several stops before we arrived at our airstrip meeting location, which gave us the opportunity to see more of the Serengeti from the air. Before even landing we had seen Wildebeest, Warthogs, Ostrich, Zebra, Elephants, Giraffe, and Gazelle.
We were greeted by our guide, Francis, whom we had been assured was “the best”. It proved to be true! His knowledge, expertise in spotting animals, love of learning, and passion for wildlife conservation became obvious very soon. He had a wealth of knowledge to share with us, a wonderful sense of humor, and endless patience accommodating our photo ops. Within the first two hours of our game drive we had seen 15 more species of animals and birds. What a magnificent day it was!
Our first night at the Mara River Camp was more than we expected. The “tents” were clean, comfortable, and the convenience of the attached bathroom and shower facilities were a welcome surprise. We dubbed the shower “the talking shower” after staff remained outside our tent to inquire whether the temperature of the shower water was acceptable. We enjoyed our “talking shower” at two other camps during our 8-day safari.
At all of the camps – Buffalo Springs Tented Lodge (very luxurious!), Seronera Sametu Camp, and Lion’s Paw Tented Camp – the hosts and staff were welcoming and made our stays with them very memorable. J. J. at Seronera Sametu Camp teased us that there would be no dinner because the hyenas got in the kitchen and ate all the food! Edward at Lion’s Paw Camp gifted us with Massai names.
Each camp was unique, however all had excellent chefs with staff that served elegant meals. Morning “wake up calls” were accompanied by coffee served in our tents. Evenings at the camps presented the opportunity to share stories of the day’s game drive, make new friends from throughout the world, and added to the wonderful memories of this trip of a lifetime! And we were able to fall asleep to the “music of the night”, the lions, hyenas, and other animals communicating throughout the night as we peacefully slept.
Our visit to the Massai village, Ololosokwan, was a highlight of our trip. Our Massai guide, John, was eager to help us learn their culture. The Massai people were warm and friendly, allowing us to go inside one of the houses and see how they live. We had the opportunity to watch them dance and to dance with them. We felt quite drab in our safari clothing compared to their wonderful, colorful native clothing! After completing the tour we were given the opportunity to see their beautiful hand-made crafts and to barter for any we wished to purchase. There was no pressure to buy, but how could we possibly resist such beautifully crafted items to take home as souvenirs!
After our eight days of game drives, seeing all of the animals we could possibly name, including THREE black rhinos, and witnessing the iconic Mara River crossing of the Wildebeest and Zebras, it was time to say goodbye to our new friend Francis, and fly to Zanzibar for three days of sun, scuba diving, and relaxation.
This extension of our trip at Ras Nungwi Resort was a chance to experience a different African culture on the island of Zanzibar and also to briefly see the largest city in Tanzania, Dar es Salaam as we prepared to fly home. Our leaving was bittersweet, as we didn’t want to leave such a fabulously scenic country, rich with diverse wildlife and warm, friendly people!
We will share with friends and family the pictures and stories of our time in Africa, but will never be able to adequately express the impact of the sights, smells, sounds, and feelings of being surrounded by nature’s glorious creations!
Safari Dates: September 25, 2014 to October 6, 2014