Tag: Illinois

A Magical Symphony for the Senses

Lisa and I have been back for four days now and we still cannot stop talking about how incredible our safari to Tanzania was. When combined with ADS’ attention to detail, the people, parks, conservation areas, animals, and accommodations of Tanzania really became a magical symphony for the senses. I could easily copy and paste from almost any other travelogue or testimonial because based on our experience, everything said by others is undoubtedly true and bears repeating. Here are some key highlights from our trip …

Day 1 – We landed in Tanzania where a visa expert had us processed in minutes while hundreds of others floundered around the passport control line. The local ADS crew was standing by with our bags and gave us a warm welcome, informative ride to the swank Mt. Meru Hotel in Arusha, a safari briefing and a lovely welcome gift in the form of a Masai beaded -bracelet which Lisa wore every day of the trip. It became immediately obvious to us that it would be unnecessary to think or worry about a single detail during our trip as everything was taken care of for us, including check-in.

Day 2 – After a relaxing evening, we spent an extra day in Arusha to recover from jet lag. The ADS team took us on a leisurely afternoon tour of the city which was very informative and interesting. We returned to the hotel for some poolside lounging. That evening, a private dining area was set up for us outside under a pergola and a special meal was prepared so we could celebrate Lisa’s birthday and our anniversary – the reasons for our trip. This was one of the many unexpected and thoughtful touches provided by the ADS team throughout our Tanzanian adventure.

Day 3 – We took an early flight into the bush as it was finally safari time!! We had one stop for a passenger pick-up at Lobo airstrip where we were joined by two crying women who were ending their trip. Lisa and I thought they were nuts until about day 5 when we both realized we too might have the same reaction on our way home. On final approach to Grumeti airport, we were glued to the window of the aircraft as a huge zoo emerged below us. After landing, we were greeted immediately by the highlight of our trip – our guide.

This man proved to be one of the warmest, funniest, and most knowledgeable people we have ever met. Within 15 minutes of being out in the bush, he spotted a lion that we watched from 5 feet away! We literally had chills because THIS is why we came to Africa – to experience up-close all the wildlife and natural beauty. In the first half of the day, we snapped over 200 photos of lions, zebra, giraffe, topi, eland, buffalo, elephant and ostrich.

We regained our composure at lunch on some rocks overlooking a vast plain where were were provided an introduction to the Serengeti and a detailed description of what we could expect on our safari. We continued our game drive all the way back to the Soroi lodge, where just before sundown we stumbled upon a billion (okay, maybe just a few thousand) wildebeest in migration running across the road in front of us. Awesome!! The Soroi was a magnificent property and our room was pure colonial luxury. We had an amazing dinner including a surprise birthday cake for Lisa and were then off to bed for an early game drive.

Day 4 – We awoke for a 6:30 breakfast and then were off to the bush. Our second day provided extremely diverse wildlife viewing again including hippos, monkeys, baboons, crocodiles, turtles, impala, gazelle, lizards and oh yes, the wildebeest. We marveled at how the landscape is ever-changing and always awe inspiring, from the lush tree-packed areas around the rivers, to the vast plains, to the sporadic rocky outcroppings that emerge – the countryside is simply breath taking. We went back to the lodge by 4 p.m. so we could enjoy our spectacular balcony view, outdoor shower, beautiful sunset, and another great dinner.

Day 5 – After a 6:00 am wake-up call and breakfast, we game drove our way to the central Serengeti. Not long into our day, we had a close encounter with a huge elephant. Noticing an unusually large amount of droppings on the road, our guide had a hunch that more elephants were looming, so we drove a few more minutes and – sure enough – stumbled upon a herd of 40+ elephants! We spent an hour just watching them – it was an absolute joy to watch these creatures unencumbered by artificial boundaries.

We continued through areas of dense game which included zebra, wildebeest, buffalo and giraffe, then stopped for lunch at the Serengeti Visitor Center and took an informative walking tour. In the afternoon, we found ourselves driving among the kopjes gawking at lions of every size and shape. The day ended with our guide spotting a cheetah from at least a ½ mile away (we still have no idea how he spots these creatures). After taking a few dozen photos we looked 5 yards to the right and found a cheetah cub sitting in a rut below the grass line. That was good for about another 50 photos!

We arrived at our private camp just before sunset and were greeted by a friendly staff, warm towel and cold drink. The decision to camp was not one we made lightly as this usually isn’t our speed. Suffice to say, we would do it again in a heartbeat as it was one of the highlights of the trip and provided the most amazing views of the sunset and night sky. Dinner was followed by a camp-fire chat and a visit from a “friendly” hyena that was eventually chased away. We drifted into sleep accompanied by the sounds of the “friendly” hyena and tons of other game in the area.

Day 6 – We had a 5:30 breakfast in the Serengeti and headed out on another “fishing” adventure. In the morning we spotted a hyena trailing a few lions, a pair of cheetah unsuccessfully stalking prey, and two lions mating – now that was quite a show! Shortly after we spotted another lion stalking a group of zebra drinking by the river. Our guide instinctively knew this would result in a kill, so he drove us a little distance away so we could have prime viewing of the entire event unfolding. That was by far the most exhilarating show of the trip!

We went back to the camp for a delicious lunch and siesta, and then headed back out in the afternoon to watch a pride of lions frolicking and a leopard return to the impala it had stashed in a tree – mission accomplished. We had another great dinner at the camp with warm birthday wishes and another cake for Lisa! We were briefly awakened at 2 a.m. when a zebra stampede moved through the camp, but quickly fell back asleep to the softer sounds of night in Serengeti.

Day 7 – We woke up very refreshed and compared notes about the stampede and accompanying cacophony. We thanked the crew for a great stay and headed back out to game dive our way to the Bilila Lodge. We checked on our leopard friend again before we left the neighborhood and spent some time with the pride of lions from the day before. We drove us past some ancient Masai cave paintings and we had a great lunch on a large outcropping where there was a musical rock – the “gong rock” – that was totally fun to play.

Our guide wisely thought we would enjoy spending a little more time at the lodge after camping in the Serengeti, so we arrived at Bilila around 2:30 – he was right. Bilila is a beautiful full-service property with amazing views, great food and delicious drinks.

Day 8 –We decided to sleep in since we were only staying one night, and began our leisurely drive towards Ngorongoro Crater at 8:30 am. We saw the usual diverse array of wildlife including a huge python that we spotted off the road. It is really true what everyone says – there is always something new and unexpected to see in the Serengeti. We stopped for lunch at the Serengeti Park exit and continued down to Oldupai Gorge. We visited the museum and listened to a presentation. It was amazing to witness this cradle of humanity first-hand.

After the requisite photo ops, we continued towards the Crater. On the way we delighted in the change of landscape and in the sightings of Masai villages as we climbed to the top of the Crater. Crater Lodge was beyond amazing and to describe it is to short change it. The staff was super professional and we had our own butler. Our room was magnificent and bigger than most apartments in Chicago, complete with a wood burning stove to combat the chill from the altitude. Champagne greeted us upon arrival and dinner was served to us in our room with rose petals scattered all around. This was a very nice end to a long day’s drive from the central Serengeti.

Day 9 – We were up at 5:30 am, grabbed some coffee and claimed bragging rights as we were first to enter the Crater that day. The view from above the Crater is matched only by the spectacular diversity of wildlife that unfolds from within. The terrain changes are just as diverse. We had an amazing breakfast overlooking a hippo pool and were treated to the last of the big 5 – an awesome close encounter with a black rhino that crossed directly in front of our vehicle. Of course, our guide had spotted two rhino earlier (with his unaided eyes) which were literally black specs at over a thousand yards, but proved to have the characteristic horns when viewed through binoculars.

We watched some lions frolicking around and caught sight of another rhino as we were headed to our lunch picnic spot – awesome! On our final rest stop within the Crater, a very precocious monkey jumped into our vehicle and stole an apple because we inadvertently left the cooler opened – oops! We headed back to lodge for some afternoon tea and were pleasantly surprised that a hot bubble bath had been drawn – adorned with rose petals! We had another delicious dinner – this time in the opulent dining room next to the fireplace – followed by another tasty cake and cheerful birthday song! We were off to bed for an early drive to Lake Manyara where we would fly out to Faru Faru for a few days to end the safari.

Days 10-12 – After some coffee and saying goodbye to our excellent butler and the staff, we took a slow drive down the fog enshrouded mountain road – and, of course, came across a leopard! We arrived at Manyara airport and exchanged goodbyes and well wishes with our guide. Though we were sad to be parting with our new friend, we felt confident we would see him again as we already were talking about our next trip to Tanzania.

Our plane arrived on-time and we were shuttled off to Sasakwa airstrip for the private Grumeti Reserve. We were met there by a friendly member of the Faru Faru staff who shuttled us to a resort that needs to be experienced to be appreciated. I’ll simply say that Sharon from ADS was right – this was the perfect way to end a safari, completely immersed in unpretentious luxury with a staff that was exceptional. We spent three incredible days here, experienced amazing cuisine, met interesting people, went on exciting game drives – a cheetah hunt and kill comes to mind – and enjoyed incredible sunsets. We were totally rested and relaxed when it came time to head home.

Day 13 – It was now our turn to get teary eyed as we were about to head home. We had a beautiful flight back to Arusha and could appreciate the Serengeti even more now that we knew what was contained in the landscape beneath us. Once again the ADS staff was there on arrival, shuttled us to the Cultural Heritage Center for some souvenir shopping, got us situated at Mt. Meru Hotel for lunch and made sure we got back to Kilimanjaro in a timely manner for the trip home. We spent the next 30 hours reflecting on our incredible trip and how there was literally nothing we would have done differently.

People who know us have heard us say that the birth of our daughter is the first thing in life that has truly exceeded our expectations. The safari that ADS arranged for Lisa and me is the second. We both agree that this was by far the best trip we have ever taken. We cannot wait to do this again with our daughter. Thanks again Sharon and the rest of the ADS Team!

Michael and Lisa Boffa
Chicago, Illinois
June 2012


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We Just Returned Home

We just returned home two days ago from our amazing trip. Thank you so much for all your planning efforts. The entire trip was so well organized, thanks to all the ADS staff and our driver Reggie. I can not begin to tell you what a wonderful person Reggie is as a guide and driver! Our daughter loved how he would talk with and to the animals, and all his stories.

The terrain and wildlife were beautiful and it will take me forever to go through the almost 5,000 pictures we took during the trip. It is hard to pin-point any one given experience or event, but to witness cheetahs (the “Three Brothers”) kill a wildebeest was definitely one of the best. And to end the trip in Zanzibar, was the perfect way to reflect on everything we did and saw on safari.

Tanzania is a beautiful country and the people are so warm and friendly.

Thanks again!

The Phelps Family
Westmont, Illinois
December 2011

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Thank You Africa Dream Safaris

We returned from our amazing trip to Tanzania three weeks ago, and are still basking in the astounding beauty of all that we witnessed. The Africa Dream Safaris website promised a trip of a lifetime, and they did not disappoint! After our long journey from Chicago, we stayed at the beautiful Mount Meru Resort, where after just one night’s rest we were ready to begin our adventure.

After a short but beautiful plane ride, we arrived in the Central Serengeti and were greeted by Michael and Petro, our fabulous guides. Our group of ten loaded into two comfortable vehicles and within what seemed like just minutes we saw our first animal – a leopard lazily sleeping in a tree! On that very first day, we were treated to zebras, giraffes, elephants and hippos. Amazed, we challenged our guides to try and make the coming days in the bush even half that fantastic!

We spent the next three nights at the gorgeous Bilila Lodge, and the days among lion cubs nursing, cheetahs climbing trees and each other, wildebeest and hyenas roaming in large groups, and too many birds to remember. A pre-sunrise game drive one morning took our collective breath away. There is simply nothing that compares to watching the sun come up over the African plains!

We then spent two nights camping in the bush, an experience that we will never forget. The Lake Masek Tented Lodge is breathtaking, with tents looking out over the beautiful lake. Choosing between a wonderful outdoor shower just one step outside our tent or a steaming bath inside was the only decision we had to make.

The next night we camped at the Seronera Sametu Camp, where there are only five tents. Our group took them all! No details were overlooked here, including a gorgeous sunset, hot showers, a crackling campfire, and a fantastic meal cooked just for us. After an excellent dinner, we were lulled to sleep by roaring lions. As if it couldn’t get any better, the next morning, our wake-up “calls” were mugs of steaming coffee and warm basins of water brought to each of our tents.

No trip to the Serengeti would be complete without a visit to Ngorongoro Crater. The beauty in the crater is dramatic and the vast array of animals is amazing. We spent our last night at the Manor at Ngorongoro, a gorgeous five-star hideaway set on a coffee plantation overlooking the Ngorongoro highlands.

We were treated to so many things while in Africa – sightings of more animals than we could have ever imagined, people who were gracious and lovely, breathtaking landscapes and the opportunity to experience a piece of paradise on earth. Thank you African Dreams Safari for this experience, thank you Dawn for your excellent guidance, and a special thank you to Michael and Petro, who always knew just where to take us to see all that Africa has to offer!

The Cohen Family
Chicago, Illinois
December 2011

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Africa Dream Safari Does It Right!

Africa Dream Safari does it right! And the other companies know it. I felt like all the other tour companies would follow our jeep around or persist that our driver stop and tell them where to look. It is a good feeling to know you are traveling with the best!!

Oh and our driver was the best:

• we saw the big 5 multiple times
• the crossing
• he spotted a leopard at dusk – this is almost impossible
• Honey Badger
• 3 lions in trees

So my recommendation is to put your trust in ADS and your driver – they know what they are doing. And you have to do the early morning drive with a box breakfast those are some of our most memorable moments. I can’t wait to go back.

Pete Muscarella
Oak Forest, Illinois
October 2011

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Trip of a Lifetime

We’ve been back now for about three days from our safari and still can’t stop talking about it or waking up thinking about everything we saw.   Words simply can’t describe how amazing it was.   When people say a safari is a “trip of a lifetime,” I now know what they mean.  We saw animals and sights that I thought I would only ever see on Planet Earth or National Geographic.  Yet, there we were – parked within a few feet of lionesses noisily growling and feeding together – or next to baby elephants playfully charging each other.

Two things amazed me most on the safari – the volume of animals we saw and the close proximity we got to them.  On a ten-day safari we must have seen 20 cheetah, 50 or 60 lions, herds of 50 or more elephants, 5 leopards, several rhino, and countless giraffe, ostrich, zebras, warthogs, and wildebeest.  We also saw babies of everything, which we could have watched for hours.  One morning, we sat and watched two cheetah cubs jumping and playing for at least 30 minutes.  They would stalk one another through the bushes, leaping at each other and rolling in the dirt.  Once in a while the mom would get in on the action and run at them playfully.  We got very close to almost all of the animals. Looking into the deep, amber colored eyes of a lioness lounging next to our jeep was something I won’t forget.  Nor will I forget being within about 50 yards of a herd of 46 elephants who turned and all stared at us when we pulled up, circling around their babies – before relaxing and going back to eating and playing while we intently watched.

We chose to stay at tented camps, all of which were fantastic.  We loved to be able to hear the animals at night.   Our favorite accommodation by far was the private camping.  We pulled up to the campsite in Ndutu – beautiful green grass and acacia trees and two tents – set up just for us.  Having dinner and sitting under the campfire with drinks afterwards looking up at the stars while hyenas whooped and lions grunted in the distance was almost surreal.  Rama, the camp manager, was perfect in anticipating our every need and we had a great time talking with him each day.  We also very much enjoyed the Kusini and Ngorongoro Lemala Camps.  At Kusini one night while sitting at the campfire sipping wine and stargazing with the camp managers, we could hear two large prides of lions within a kilometer of each side of the camp roaring.  At Lemala, a hungry elephant hung out behind our tent all night eating from the nearby trees.  Absolutely incredible!

Finally – and most importantly – I wanted to comment on our guide.  His experience, expertise, and warm personality absolutely made our trip the amazing experience it was.  He had almost 20 years of experience in guiding and it certainly showed.  He knew in-depth information on every animal and bird we saw and made the drive and viewing more interesting and exciting because of it.  He also didn’t just drive and try and spot animals as it seemed like drivers from some other companies were doing – he was constantly working with other drivers to see what was out there each day and find the best areas and animals for us to view.  As a result, we got to see everything we wanted, and much more.

Thank you to Dawn and Africa Dream Safaris for an incredible trip that we will never forget. We hope to see you again soon – Dave and I are already thinking about a return trip in a few years for our anniversary!

Moira and David Funcheon
Chicago, Illinois
February 2011

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