Tag: June

The Only Way To Go Is A Private ADS Safari!

The wildlife in Tanzania is absolutely breathtaking but the wonderful team at ADS really created the unforgettable trip. Michael helped us plan an amazing adventure and from the day we landed until the day we unfortunately had to depart we were in incredible hands. Mathias and Joseph met us at the airport and since we had an extra day we spent an afternoon with Joseph experiencing his personal insider tour of Arusha.

In the bush Ellison was our guide and friend. He bonded with our kids, was fabulous at finding animals, had an encyclopedic knowledge of the plants, animals and geography, and truly exuded a personal passion for the Serengeti. He also took us to places where we were the only people for miles around – just us, the unending plain, and the cheetahs.

There’s no way to describe having lunch surrounded by thousands upon thousands of migrating wildebeest. The only way to go is a private ADS safari and a guide like Ellison made for a truly memorable, once in a lifetime adventure.

This was also a wonderful family adventure. Our kids are 12 and 14 which are perfect ages to experience Tanzania. Cell phones were put away (and wifi access isn’t great) and replaced by cameras. Our family took 8,000 pictures!, most of which were taken by our kids.

The lodges were all terrific and unique – like the Mbalageti Lodge where the electricity turns off in the evening and your tented room is lit by candles. Or the family tent at Seronera Sametu Camp where you hear the sounds of nearby lions at night. Or having an elephant walk by your balcony when you’re having lunch at Ngorongoro.

Each lodge was unique and each new lodge became our kids’ favorite. One of the most memorable experiences for our kids was the visit to a Masai village where the cultural contrast really resonated (especially when they saw children their age tending herds alongside the roads).

Our trip was at the end of June, when the migration was in full swing in the west Serengeti and most of the baby animals are around 4 months old. We saw baby cheetahs, lions, hyenas, warthogs, giraffes, zebras, wildebeest, gazelle, elephants…and every day, when we thought we couldn’t possibly have a new experience, we discovered something incredible and unexpected.

Thank you ADS!!!

The West Family
San Francisco, California
Safari Dates: June 22, 2016 to July 3, 2016

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We Saw Four Of The Big Five Within 3 Hours Of Arriving!

I have been a documentary junkie since a very young age. Watching images of lions, wildebeest, and antelope has been a passion since childhood. We found ADS through our friends, and contacted Sharon Lyon, with whose guidance and expertise we created an extravagant two week adventure chasing the wildebeest migration around the Serengeti.

Starting in Arusha and moving to Sametu camp in the Seronera region we immediately learned how bountiful the Serengeti could be. We saw four of the big five animals within 3 hours of arriving in the bush. Our fantastic guide, Wilfred, couldn’t have been more perfect! Right off the bat, we were treated to lions climbing a tree, a Leopard in a tree with a kill, multiple lions, cubs, antelope, elephants, giraffe’s, and of course the hippo’s.

We headed north through Mbalageti, through to the Migration Camp, witnessing tens of thousands of migrating Wildebeest, zebra, and antelope along the way. Watching an overland crossing of a mountain by a herd of Wildebeest, we were primed for what was to come.

At Bushtop, a magnificent luxury camp near the Mara river, we found the great herds ready to cross the river, and were lucky enough to see 3 huge river crossings in two days. Quite a difference from a documentary when you can feel, smell, and hear every last movement.

Finishing up at the magnificent Crater Lodge at Ngorongoro National Park, we couldn’t believe how magnificent and wonderful everything was. We can’t say enough about ADS, from the planning to the execution. Everything was perfect. And…it’s true about their guides! They are the absolute best. Wilfred, and all the ADS team, thank you!

Mark, Mariana, Marcy and Dana L.
New York, New York
Safari Dates: June 21, 2016 to July 6, 2016

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Three Moments In Tanzania That Took My Breath Away

My daughter Emma and I just returned from a safari of a lifetime with Africa Dream Safaris. We could not be happier with what Sharon Lyon helped us to arrange.

Everything was as advertised. We were met by Matteus at the gate at Kilimanjaro Airport and swiftly escorted through the Visa and Customs process and taken to the Mount Meru Hotel. We opted for a layover day in Arusha and given a tour by Matteus and Joseph. This ADS Meet and Greet Team could not have been nicer.

The next day we flew out to the Western Corridor of the Serengeti and met by our guide Emmanuel(Ema). They say a safari guide can make or break one’s experience and we certainly lucked out. He was everything we could ask for: personable, experienced, very knowledgeable, and had a great sense of humor. He quickly realized what kind of an experience we were looking for and made it happen. As you can see with the attached photos he was able to find and then put us very close to some magnificent animals.

We spent the first three nights at Mbalageti Luxury Lodge, the next two at Seronera Sametu Camp, and the last two at Lion’s Paw Camp. They were all great, but the two tented camps (Sametu and Lion’s Paw Camps) were even more special because we happened to be the only guests there those nights so we were treated like Royalty.

I think Emma had some reservations about sleeping in tents prior to the trip but quickly found out this was not camping as either of us had ever known. From the on-demand bucket showers to the hot water bottles in our beds at night, we were pampered. We also ate very well while on our safari. It is amazing how well these chefs do at cooking wonderful meals in these remote locations. The soups were the best. We even had a special cake baked just for us on our last night.

We did not do a lot of the optional tours and visits while on safari because we were there to see the animals. We did however do a Hot Air Balloon ride which was excellent. ADS scheduled it to optimize our game viewing from above. Seeing the sunrise and all those animals from a balloon will forever be in our memories.

ADS quotes Mark Twain: “Life should not be measured by the number of breaths we take, but by those moments that take our breath away.” Thanks to ADS I had three such moments while in Tanzania. The first was when Ema parked us in the middle of the great migration and there were thousands of wildebeests and zebras in all directions. The second was when we first saw the vast expansiveness of the Serengeti Plains dotted with assorted animals spread out between the Kopjes. The third moment that took my breath away was when we first looked down over the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater.

We spent years preparing for this trip. You can read the books, look at the pictures, and watch the videos on Africa. But there is no way you can get a feel for what it is truly like. You need to be there yourself to see it, to hear it, and to even smell it. Only then can you get full appreciation. Africa Dream Safaris can make this happen for you.

Derek and Emma F.
Francestown, New Hampshire
Safari Dates: June 1, 2016 to June 10, 2016

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A Fantastic Vacation We Will Never Forget!

We’ve always wanted to go on a safari in Africa, but we were intimidated by the amount of touring companies available. We did our research for months, including speaking with references from various companies and we ultimately decided to choose African Dream Safaris.

Our experience was pleasant from the start. Dawn was a wonderful liaison – friendly, nice, compassionate, and extremely knowledgeable. Still, did we make the right choice? Well let me tell you, everyone we met, starting from our arrival at the airport, had the exact qualities of Dawn! We could not believe how friendly, helpful, and caring the staff were.

Then we met our guide, Russell, the one we’d be spending most of our time with. If I had to use one word: amazing. We were extremely happy with Russell. He was always so attentive to our family’s needs, tailoring each day’s trip to maximize our enjoyment of what the Serengeti and the Ngorongoro Crater had to offer.

Not only did he frequently spot all kinds of wildlife from afar, but he made sure the entire family could view the animals without disturbing or threatening them. He was also extremely knowledgeable about the best angle and lighting for photographs and video. His deep respect for nature and wildlife was exemplary.

Russell and the entire staff of African Dream Safaris exceeded our expectations and were responsible for a fantastic vacation that we will never forget. African Dream Safaris truly made our wishes come true.

Asante Sana!

Here is a link to our youtube vacation video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ir_cPM6ttWs

Steve C. and Nhu P.
Walnut Creek, California
Safari Dates: June 14, 2016 to June 24, 2016

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The Number One Trip Of Our Lives!

From the moment our plane touched down in Tanzania, Africa Dream Safaris exceeded every expectation we had. Marcus took care of all paperwork at the airport with no hassles. He and Timon then drove us safely to Mount Meru hotel, answering every question we could think of asking.

After getting us settled in our hotel for the night, they drove us to the Arusha air strip the next morning for our flight to the Western Corridor of the country. They made sure everything was taken care of during ever aspect of that part of our trip. Our flight to the Western Corridor was beautiful with a very professional pilot.

After landing, our guide, Peter, picked us up, and away we went for the adventure of our lives. Our first day was amazing! We even told our guide that there was NO WAY the next day could measure up, but how wrong we were. Every day was better than the last. We saw over one hundred lions, thousands of wildebeests, zebras, antelopes, gazelles, and topis.

The great migration was unbelievable—–animals as far as you could see in both directions! We even saw eight of the 500 cheetah in the Serengeti, eight leopards, a serval, seven of the 33 endangered rhinos in the Ngorongoro Crater, hundreds of hippos, elephants baboons,and monkeys. Every day was new and exciting. We saw more animals that we ever thought possible.

Our guide, Peter, was excellent. He spotted almost every animal around and worked extremely hard to make sure we saw everything possible. We even saw mating lions, lions dining on a zebra (twice). We never got to see an actual kill, but saw lions stalking topis and cheetahs on the hunt. I think we saw every type of animal in the Serengeti.

Our visit to a Maasai village was fascinating and a favorite part of the trip. The Maasai culture amazed me! Our guide in the village was a chief’s son (a fourth wife’s child and one of thirty five of the Chief’s children), who had been educated in Arusha, but had decided to return to his village. He gave us a first class tour of his village. The kindergarten children melted my heart. I will never forget the very young Maasai children taking the goats and cows out to graze each day. They walked miles with the herds, then returned each night—-with lions all around! The shoes worn by the Maasai (I call them tire shoes) were made of TIRES! They could walk miles in them!

Our lodges were all first class. We stayed in Mbalageti, Serena Serengeti (my daughter;s favorite), Lake Masek tented lodge, Ngorongoro Serena, and Plantation Lodge. My favorite was the Lake Masek tented lodge. Hippos bathed in the lake all day and at night you could hear them walking by the tents eating grass, returning to the lake at daybreak. Our food was very good. You could always find something delicious for dinner. Our box lunches and breakfasts were also very good (although too much food!). On my next trip, I will stay in all ADS tented lodges. Our guide took us by the Sametu ADS lodge and it was quite impressive, very intimate with excellent staff.

African Dream Safaris went above and beyond all expectations to make this trip our NUMBER ONE TRIP OF OUR LIVES! Many thanks to Dawn, Marcus, Timon (whom we found out was a Maasai tribe member. He entertained us with numerous stories!), all of the staff at our lodges, and especially our guide, Peter (THE BEST OF THE BEST!!!). We will return to this beautiful country again! Thanks ADS for giving us the TRIP OF A LIFETIME!

Cindy H.
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Safari Dates: May 29, 2015 to June 8, 2015

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Our ADS Experience Really Was A Dream Come True

We are now nearly a month post safari and it all seems like a dream now, a vivid and unforgettable dream. African Dream Safaris is no misnomer, but rather a most accurate descriptor of a company, a style, and a philosophy that succeeds on every level in delivering the promise of once in a lifetime experience.

From our arrival in Arusha and the kind and welcoming reception at the airport and the rapid delivery to the comforts of our first Africa hotel, things got underway as smoothly as possible. The upward trajectory gathered speed quickly the next morning with the arrival of Francis, our peerless guide and soon-to-be friend. We were but two couples, my wife and I accompanied by two dear friends.

Having read other reviews and the copious encomiums lavished on other ADS guides Francis shouldn’t have come as such a great surprise, yet he was. His knowledge of the Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengeti were encyclopedic. He seemed to know just about everything about the flora and fauna of every place we visited in the region.

He was constantly spotting things otherwise invisible, constantly searching for new ways to delight and entertain us. He knew about so many things and his truck contained reference works on birds and animals that were dog-eared and lovingly pored over. Did I mention that he was also a simply awesome driver taking us safely across all manner of terrain, weather and challenging condition?

Francis passion and determination that paid off time and again with the rewarding appearance of leopards, cheetahs, lions galore, elephants by the score, giraffes, hippos, crocs, rhinos, untold bird species, monkeys, baboons, hyenas, jackals, and all manner of wildebeest and zebra, buffalo and plains dwellers.

We came for the animals, we got the animals and so much more. That included an encounter with an angry alpha male elephant charging angrily toward us in pursuit of an errant couple from the herd who had the temerity to “sneak” off for a mating effort before our very eyes. (Francis said he had never seen that before!)

Our accommodations were extraordinary, a throwback in bush-style elegance from quite another era. The staff members at each location were unfailingly cheerful, helpful and friendly. The food was magnificent, always fresh and exquisitely prepared. As surprised as we were by all the natural splendors, the restfulness, comfort and ease of life in the bush were beyond any of our expectations, way beyond!

The lodges throughout were perfect places for respite and provided pleasurable ways to reflect on the ardors of the day’s wonders. Perhaps the most delightful surprise of all was our bush camp that transported the vicinity from frontier to comfort zone. Our tents included king-size beds, excellent camp toilets, and hot showers (provided by a charcoal fire and the prodigious efforts of our terrific staff) and meals to die for consumed under the gaze of lions! The magical cooks presented us with their charcoal and wood-fired creations including a cake on our last night.

Our last stop was a luxurious lodge that included a swimming pool, beautiful cottages and a wonderful restaurant. The Masai protectors led us to and from our rooms with their spears at the ready. Having visited one of the Masai villages and having observed them with their herds on the plains, the strength, beauty and resilience of those people was a thing to behold.

Our ADS experience really was a dream, a dream come true. In a place and environ where so much can go wrong, everything went right due to the extraordinary talent and efforts of the personnel. We can’t thank you enough for helping to create an extraordinary memory.

Elliot D. and Linda T.
Santa Rosa, California
May 27, 2015 to June 7, 2015

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Fell in Love with Africa

As our plane circled over a grassy runway in the Serengeti my husband and I and his parents saw our first African animals in abundance. Giraffe striding gracefully, zebra grazing and baboons running across our path as we landed. All the planning, decision making, and long travel melted away as excitement and awe overtook us.

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Whatever You Do, Go With ADS.

It is hard to write about the trip of a life time and the wonderful service of Dawn and ADS without sounding like a commercial. Taking a trip, any trip, takes many hours of exploring all the options, travel companies, timing, locations, etc. Luckily when we decided to travel to Africa, we had a recommendation from a friend. Whatever you do, go with ADS.

With this in mind, we contacted Dawn and from then on all was taken care of. After talking with us and realizing our desire for isolated small camps and our budget, Dawn planned the perfect trip. I would tell anyone who asks us about a safari in Africa, the same thing my friend told us. Whatever you do, go with ADS.

Each lodge or camp was different. It was hard to believe that you spend all day without seeing a building and then arrive at sunset at a wonderful place in the absolute middle of nowhere and be greeted by a welcoming staff with a cold towel and a fruit drink.

While each was wonderful, I would certainly recommend that you include Seronera Sametu Camp. At night we could lie in bed and listen to lions and the Wildebeest. Then in the morning be awakened before sunrise with coffee and tea at the door of our tent. In the evening before a wonderful dinner, we would relax at the campfire with our beer. If you do stay there, say hi to JJ and Primo for me.

The animals are always the first concern; what will we see, how close will we get. Our guide Michael made sure that we saw all the animals and that we got as close as was safe. We had a male lion bump the Land Cruiser as it walked by. A bull elephant herded us for a mile along a dirt track from 20 feet behind the vehicle. We had breakfast on the hood of the Land Cruiser surrounded by unlimited numbers of wildebeest and zebras. We saw all the big ones that you come to Africa to see.

What was the biggest surprise for me were all the animals that I didn’t know we would see. The small Dik-Dik standing so still with its black nose twitching. The serval cat that lives near the camp. The puff adder lying in the road. The mongoose living in in termite mound, sticking out their heads to watch us watching them. Each sighting was exciting and different.

The other surprise was the number of different birds we saw. Michael would stop and point out a bird and tell us a name and then pull out his guide book to show us the picture. The colors were amazing from the Fish Eagle to the Secretary bird to the Superb Starling. The birds alone could be a reason to go to Africa and having a guide who could spot the birds and then identify them was priceless.

Since it was just the four of us and Michael, we could take the time to enjoy each discover at our pace and spend as much time watching and taking over 4000 pictures. Often Michael would say, “let’s wait another 10 minutes and see what happens.” Usually something did.

Oliver and Pam P.
Durango, Colorado
Safari Dates: June 7, 2015 to June 17, 2015

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It Was A New Adventure Every Day!


First of all, I want to thank Ellison (the best guide ever) for making my safari a memorable one. Also, Dawn at Africa Dream Safaris for putting everything together. It was a new adventure every day.

We asked Ellison how he was going to make the next day better than the day before, and we were never disappointed. It was unbelievable. The Hippos, Cheetahs, Giraffes, Leopards, Zebras, Wildebeests, Hyenas, Lions, Elephants, Rhinos, Baboons, Monkeys and can’t forget the beautiful birds. It was amazing and so are my pictures.

Asante Sana!

Niki B. and Richard W.
Milford, Michigan
Safari Dates: June 24, 2015 to July 2, 2015

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I Cannot Adequately Express The Care And Graciousness That Was Constant Throughout Our Safari.

After a lifetime of dreaming, a year of planning and months of eager anticipation I embarked on my safari adventure on June 29, 2015. I had convinced my family, ranging in age from 3 to 67, to accompany me on this journey.

As our plane winged across the Atlantic a sense of fear and panic overtook me as I thought what is this if a complete disaster. What was I doing taking five children ages 3, 5, 6, 10 and 13 and assorted adults on a safari? The anxiety and panic was completely unnecessary, because as soon as we touched down at Kilimanjaro and were greeted by Mathias and Precious I knew that a splendid adventure lay ahead.

Dawn had planned a magnificent itinerary for us. We had elected to have a rest day in Arusha and we used that day to visit St. Jude’s School and downtown Arusha. St Jude’s School is an inspiring experience and I as so glad that I got to personally visit and see the wonderful work being done there. We got to see all three stop lights in Arusha, the city activity, the Tanzanian torch monument and the mid-continent marker.

Early the next morning we flew out to the Serengeti. As we approached the Kogatende air strip all of us were transformed to children as we exclaimed: “Do you see that giraffe?; There’s an elephant; I see zebras” We excitedly deplaned and were met by our new best friends Wilfred and Ally.

Both Wilfred and Ally deserve an award for putting up with our crew. They were always cheerful, catered to the children and never seemed to tire of out endless questions. Our first stop was Mara River Camp. We absolutely loved the camp and our dear host, Gilbert.

The wildlife were ready to greet and entertain us. We saw elephants, giraffes, zebras, monkeys, wildebeests, gazelles, topis, beautiful birds, lions, cheetahs, crocodiles and hippos! We were all completely satisfied and thought no need to go anywhere else but Mara River.

However, our itinerary called for us to move on to Buffalo Luxury Camp. Again we were treated as special guests and more special adventures awaited us. The camp is located on the side of a hill and enjoys superb views. We enjoyed watching frolicking elephants, elands, cape buffalo and impalas.

Our visit to the Maasai village was an unforgettable experience. Our Maasai hosts were so welcoming and they seemed to be genuinely happy that we had come to visit. The highlights for the children at Buffalo Luxury Camp were roasting marshmellows by the fire, the baby cobra on the terrace, the game of bows, arrows and spears that the staff prepared for the children to enjoy and the night time game drive. Nowhere have we ever seen more beautiful stars!

While again we would have been perfectly satisfied to stay at Buffalo Luxury Camo and enjoy the breath taking views, we had to again move on. This time our destination was the Serengeti Serena Lodge. The views at the lodge are also unbelievable. We encountered a buffalo roaming through the grounds at night and it was during our stay here that we found the leopard that totally mesmerized us.

Our final stop was Serena Ngorongoro Lodge at the crater. The Lodge is beautiful and the fireplaces throughout the lodge are a welcome place to warm up from the cool air and winds. The crater is magnificent and we did succeed in being among the first few cars into the crater the next morning. We were so delighted to see the flamingoes and yes- we did see a black rhino!

I had anticipated that the travel day back to Arusha would be non-eventful, but I was wrong. Wilfred and Ally had planned souvenir shopping, which thoroughly pleased the children. We also came across a group of young Maasai dressed in their ceremonial garb and we visited Lake Manyara Park.

Lake Maynara Park was a wonderful surprise. Situated just outside Arusha, the park provides wonderful viewing of monkeys, baboons, elephants, hippos and magnificent birds. This is really a very small but beautiful park and I am so glad Wilfred and Ally treated us to this stop.

On arrival back at the Mount Meru Hotel late in the afternoon of our departure date we wondered how we could get some dinner before we had to head to the airport. Hakuna matata – Mathias had arranged for the kitchen to prepare an early dinner for us. On the way to the airport we got to see the “Shy Lady” – Mount Kilimanjaro – as she peaked out from her veil of clouds.

I cannot adequately express the thought, care and graciousness that was constant throughout our stay. Travelling with children is a real plus! Everyone went above and beyond to accommodate the children and to make sure that the adults were having a wonderful time too.

Our every need was anticipated and met. None of us were ready to leave Tanzania but all of us left with wonderful memories and a desire to return. We can’t thank everyone at ADS enough for providing us with such a magnificent adventure!


Linda H. and Family
Houston, Texas
Safari Dates: June 30, 2015 to July 10, 2015

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ADS Set Up A Mobile Camp Just For The Four Of Us.

After much research and thought my wife and I decided to use ADS for the safari portion of our trip to Africa. We were persuaded by their reputation and flexibility and their commitment to the country and people of Tanzania that they would be able to provide us with the experience we were looking for.

Our flight to Kilimanjaro for the start of the safari was somewhat delayed. Nevertheless, when we arrived at close to midnight we were greeted on the tarmac by Mattheus, who moved us swiftly through customs and brought us to the safari vehicle where Francis, our guide, driver, companion, teacher and friend for the next 12 days was waiting for us.

We drove to Arusha for some much needed sleep and the following morning, after the first of many fine meals provided by the hotels, lodges and camps that ADS had booked and set up for us, met up with Francis and our two friends from home who would be joining us for the safari.

Our first park was Lake Manyara where Francis quickly demonstrated his ability to spot, identify and discourse upon the many different animals and birds we encountered. As we got to know Francis we learned of his broad range of interests and knowledge and of his particular expertise when it came to the flora and fauna of Tanzania and the Serengeti.

Seeing the Big Five was not a major focus of our trip. However, we had only the leopard to go after our first two days and Francis took care of that a few days later, somehow spotting a leopard in the crook of a tree on the Serengeti.

Our time with ADS was an unqualified success. We had the experience we came for. We saw everything we wanted to see and ADS assured our comfort and safety through every stage of our time with them. In particular, we will always remember the 3 days on the Central Serengeti plain where ADS set up a mobile camp just for the four of us.

They provided for our every need, including some of the best meals (from a wood fired oven and wood fired stove) we had on the entire trip. I could not possibly say enough about the staff that took care of us while we were there.

The tents were amazing, with king size beds, running water, hot showers and all the comforts of home, except that your door step was the Serengeti, lions were 100 yards away, and the night sounds were unlike anything we had ever heard before.

Along with all of that there were some wonderful surprises that I’m not going to ruin by mentioning, but were an example of the lengths ADS went to make our trip as memorable as possible.

Steve W. and Jamie T.
Santa Rosa, California
Safari Dates: May 27, 2015 to June 7, 2015

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I Was Fortunate To Stay At The Lovely Four Seasons Lodge

All I can say is that every expectation was met and surpassed 10x. From start to finish we were treated like royalty. I expected to see animals, but the abundance of animals we saw was staggering: herds of 100+ elephants along with their babies, a pride of 10 lions with young cubs, 8 lions hanging in a tree, 7 (yes 7!!) black rhino sightings, and more zebras, giraffes, ostriches, warthogs, antelopes and wildebeest than I can count.

I was amazed at how vocal animals are in the wild; the hippos were grunting, burping, belching, snorting, rolling and playing….nothing like the floating lump we’ve seen in the zoo. The lions were lean and muscular, and we were fortunate to see an attempted hunt on a wildebeest (unfortunately, they were unsuccessful). But then the 2 female lions lazily walked over and rested in the shade of our jeep! Amazing!

Our guide was wonderful. Ally has an eagle eye and could spot a leopard and cubs in a tree that we could barely see. What a thrill. He bent over backwards to make sure we were happy. The sites we stayed at were one nicer than the next. I shall never again be so fortunate to stay in a place as lovely as the Four Seasons Safari Lodge. What a dream. And every ADS rep we encountered was helpful and friendly.

The trip was a dream. If you need a new marketing rep, I’m your gal, as I have enthused to everyone I’ve encountered about how wonderful our trip was….I may have even convinced a few people on the plane ride back to sign up!

Janet D.
San Jose, California
Safari Dates: May 24, 2015 to June 2, 2015

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Detailed Trip Report, Tips and Recommendations

We just returned from our fantastic trip to the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater. My wife and I, along with our 2 boys (18 and 16), had a truly wonderful trip and we are already missing the animals and landscape. I’ve been thinking: Is Swahili that difficult to learn and can I find a job there? Although we do a considerable amount of adventure photography (our last trip was underwater photography of whale sharks), I’ve never been out of the Western Hemisphere, so I was somewhat anxious about making the flight and personal connections in Tanzania. However, all of that anxiety was unnecessary as Africa Dream Safari organized this trip perfectly.

Before we go into details and give some suggestions, I should say that we wanted to do a lot of photography and Dawn suggested renting a good camera and lens. In addition to my reasonably good Nikon D90 with a 70-­‐210 F2.8 lens, I rented a D800 and an 80-­‐400 F 4.5-­‐5.6 lens (key decision), because we often had several people wanting to take pictures at the same time. The D800 has to capability of taking 36-­‐ megapixel images; thus, the images made by this camera are wonderful. Also, bring one wide-­‐angle lens for those scenic shots.

Because I was shooting fine JPEG and RAW images simultaneously, I used a lot of memory with each mage I took. I had 8 SD cards (ranging from 8 GB to 64 GB) and could fill them every day, so bringing a laptop computer is another important decision to download the images. Make sure you bring the cable that connects your camera to the computer so you can download the images. I forgot my cord, but fortunately my Mac has an SD card slot. Also, bring a copy of your camera’s users manual – I had to resort to it several times during the trip. Downloading the pdf to the computer is a nice way to save weight. Our driver-­‐ guide had 2 good beanbags in his LandRover, so don’t bring your own or go buy beans in the Arusha market (like I did).

We also brought a video camera and a drone to fly over the animals. (***Note: Subsequent to this safari, the Tanzanian government has now banned the use of drones***) The drone is capable of taking jpeg images and video. The drone enabled us to get a hot air balloon view anytime we wanted for less than the cost of a 1-­‐hour balloon ride for 3 people. Interestingly, we were not the only people using drones for photography. Our driver-­‐guide enthusiastically, but safely, encouraged the use of the drone. We have many spectacular aerial images of animals in their habitat. Although viewing the animals from the roadside is wonderful, the aerial images give an entirely new view of the animals in their environment.

International flights: We took Delta to Amsterdam and Delta (KLM) to the Kilimanjaro Airport in Tanzania. Delta was much less expensive than flying KLM, but used the same aircraft. All of the flights had excellent in-­‐seat entertainment. Our single checked bag made it without issue.

Kilimanjaro Airport reception: Faith (who is a wonderful person and very pregnant at the time) met us at the airport and got us through the visa line quickly. We were taken by van to the Mount Meru Resort – a 1-­‐hour drive. At the entrance, they check under the vans and cars with mirrors to make sure the place is safe. The hotel is nice, but since it is the Southern Hemisphere’s winter, the pool was just a little too cold four our taste. We took an extra day to recover from our 24-hour journey, so we just slept late at the hotel and then went for an Africa Dream Safari provided drive around Arusha. Arusha is a large city with significant poverty; it is amazing that Tanzania has been able to keep the Serengeti from being converted to farmland just like the American Plains were.

Getting to the Arusha Regional Airport to the Grumeti Airstrip: Faith met us at the hotel and helped us with the hotel checkout. She also arranged for us to leave a bag of clean clothes with the local Africa Dream Safari people.

Flight from Arusha Regional Airport to the Grumeti Airstrip (Western Serengeti): We flew with Regional Air on a Cessna Caravan C 208 B, which holds only 11 people. All of our checked bags were weighed as we were allotted some 30 pounds of luggage each. The carry-­‐on baggage was very small (basically your cameras). This plane does not have any overhead storage, obviously. The Arusha Airport landing strip is over 5000 feet long – plenty long for this type of aircraft. (Of note, Ethiopian Airlines landed a 767 on this landing strip in December of 2013. One more reason not to take Ethiopian Airlines.) The Cessna Caravan C 208 B is a twin-­‐engine turboprop aircraft with an excellent overall safety record.

Grumeti Airstrip: Hard packed landing strip on a flat area of the Western Serengeti. Again, no safety problems; however, one of our bags (the one with the drone) was accidentally loaded onto another aircraft. We got the bag later in the day. The landing was great as we could see wildebeests, warthogs and hippos all around the airport. We were met at the airstrip by our driver-‐guide, Inglebert.

Game drives: The drives start immediately upon arrival to the airstrip. Inglebert turns out to be a pleasant chap, terrific guide and excellent photographer. He is quite knowledgeable about the ecosystem, the animals and their habits. Having a knowledgeable Swahili-­‐speaking guide is key as they radio each other with the locations of the various animals. This guaranteed us a concentrated game viewing experience. It may have been luck, but we saw 3 rhinos, 3 leopards, a python, and over 50 lions on our 6-­‐day tour.

Speaking of lions, we saw lionesses in trees teaching cubs to climb, one group of seven lion cubs and another of 11 lion cubs. We also saw 2 lionesses make 3 wildebeest kills in less than 1-hour; apparently, they were “playing”. But we came for the migration and we saw hundreds of thousands of wildebeests and additional large groups of zebras, buffalos, impalas, and gazelles.

Key tip to the photographers – relax, you will get to see everything up close. Some days are designed for lions whereas other days for leopards. Trust Inglebert. But beware; he will give you a full day of animal viewing. Our game drives started at 6 am sharp, so we were usually up at 5 am, and we often didn’t reach the lodge until 6 pm many evenings. We were all happy to have taken the extra day in Arusha; otherwise, I think the first day’s game drive would have been difficult due to fatigue.

Mbalageti Lodge: Of all of our accommodations, this was my favorite camp. These “tents” have cement floors, rock and concrete walls, and metal roofs. Although tarps separate the living area from the bedrooms, there are doors and rock walls separating the bathrooms. The rooms are equipped with wooden furnature, leather couches, and a TV /DVD. Various DVD’s are available for viewing, but we never turned on the TV. The rooms also have a small refrigerator with complimentary water, sodas and beer. The view from the attached wooden deck is spectacular.

The camp is well positioned for the May-June part of the migration. Obviously, this lodge is in the bush and animals can, and do, wander through the camp. After dark you are required to have a guide to leave the tent. The tents all have bathrooms with hot water; hair dryers, towels, soap and shampoo are provided. Apparently, the water is heated by solar power, so take your showers at night. The warm water supply in the morning is limited. Beds are very nice and comfortable. The electricity is turned off in the mid afternoon and from midnight to 5 am, so charge your electronics appropriately. Locking safe is available. The lodge has a pool, but the water was just too cold. Dinner was great. Breakfast was a boxed meal as was lunch. Both were excellent.

Serengeti Serena Lodge. Not a tented camp, but rustic and very nice. My son particularly appreciated the WiFi. The camp is well positioned for the central and north Serengeti with its resident lions and leopards. The views from the rooms and throughout the lodge are spectacular. Obviously, this lodge is in the bush and animals can, and do, wander through the camp. After dark you are required to have a guide to leave the tent. This camp has a resident leopard that killed a dik‐dik outside our room one evening. We were disappointed as to not have recorded the action digitally, but we heard it. However, the kill was made at 6 pm – during the daytime before you are required to have a Maasai walk around the camp with you. Watch small children carefully at all camps – especially this one. Apparently, this leopard left her cub in a lodge room in 2012; I guess she couldn’t find any daycare that day. Bathrooms are very well equipped; hair dryers, towels, soap and shampoo are provided. Beds are very nice and comfortable. The electricity is available throughout the day and night. Locking safe is available. The lodge has a pool, but the water was just too cold. Dinner was great. Breakfast was a boxed meal as was lunch. Both were excellent.

Ngorongoro Lion’s Paw Tented Camp: The most tent‐like experience of all three lodges. The view is spectacular. The camp is well positioned in the Ngorongoro Crater, so you get an early jump on the animals for those great early morning photos. This camp is at altitude, so it is cold at night and in the morning‐but I really didn’t need the long underwear – only a fleece jacket. No gloves are needed either. Obviously, this lodge is in the bush and animals can, and do, wander through the camp. After dark you are required to have a guide to leave the tent. Bathrooms are very well equipped; hair dryers, towels, soap and shampoo are provided. Unlike the other 2 camps, the toilet is behind a tarp – not a door. Also, the shower is actually a real camp shower – someone filling up the reservoir with 40 liters of hot water. Beds are very nice and comfortable. The electricity is available throughout the day and night. Locking safe is not available. Dinner was great as was breakfast. Lunch was an excellent boxed lunch.

Last day: After a 3-hour morning game drive where we watched lions devouring a fresh wildebeest kill, Inglebert drove us 3.5 hours from the Ngorongoro Crater to the Mount Meru Resort where we used 2 different day-rooms to shower and repack. Our clean clothes were waiting for us at the resort. We ate dinner at the hotel at 5 pm and were whisked away to the Kilimanjaro Airport by an Africa Dream Safari representative. We were dropped off at the departure door and we made our own way to the KLM counter. One exit form needs to be completed for each person prior to boarding your flight. KLM was very strict as to what could be considered hand luggage, so we ended up checking 4 bags back to the US (we only checked 1 bag coming to Arusha). Getting through emigration was easy; however, none of the bathrooms were working in the boarding area, so some of us had to leave and redo the process all over again. Our 4 checked bags made it to our destination without issue.

Electricity: You will need an EU plug adaptor as the American plug type will not work. Bring a power strip to charge multiple items at the same time. The voltage in Tanzania is 220 volts; whereas, in the US it is 110 volts. All of our cell phones, computers, and rechargeable camera charged without a converter. Things like hair driers made for the US market are not designed for that voltage and will burn up. If you insist on bringing your own hair dryers or curling irons you will also need to use a converter. We did use an inverter in the LandRover to charge the camera batteries during our long game drives. Of note, none of the lodges had AA batteries and the AAA batteries looked old, so bring a good supply of newly purchased batteries from home.

Disease and Health Issues: All of the rooms come equipped with mosquito netting, but we didn’t see many mosquitoes. We sprayed all of our clothes with Permethrin prior to departure and we rarely needed to use DEET containing substances. Red ants are found outside and can be painful so don’t play with them (sounds obvious, but they are intoxicating to watch and fun to provoke).

Consider bringing some medication designed to relieve itching due to bites and stings. Only one brief case of traveler’s diarrhea occurred, which resolved quickly with Lomotil and ciprofloxacin. Consider making an appointment with your physician to get a week supply of ciprofloxacin just in case the traveler’s diarrhea gets you too; Lomotil is available over-­‐the-­‐counter. The roads are hard – packed dirt and very ruff – it’s called the Serengeti massage, so bring some Tylenol and/or Advil. The sun can be bright, so bring sunscreen. The hats provided by Africa Dream Safari proved to be key at preventing sunburn.

Money and tips: It is difficult not to tip well after seeing the poverty in Arusha and in the Maasai villages. Bring more cash than you think you will need. I never used my credit card due to possible fraud issues, but I ended up with just $7 in my pocket when we arrived in the US.

You pay for all of your drinks including water at dinner (except at Lion’s Paw; drinks, including alcohol, are complementary). Take a lot of 1‐dollar bills with you to tip baggage‐porters and the Maasai to lead you to and from dinner in the dark. It is not much to us, but I think it makes a significant contribution to them. I blew through 100 $1 bills easily in just 8 days. Tip $10‐20 per day per group at each of the lodges. They all have tip boxes (except Lion’s Paw). Tip your driver guide $70/day – use $100 bills when possible.

Jay, Abby, Alex and Collin R.
Winston-Salem, North Carolina
Safari Dates: June 2, 2014 to June 9, 2014

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Thanks ADS Dream Weavers For The Trip Of A Lifetime!

Now I know what Ernest Hemingway meant when he said, “I never knew of a morning in Africa when I woke up that I was not happy.” For eleven magical days, we couldn’t wait to see what our expert guide, Godson, had in store for us as he carefully guided our trusty Cruiser along the endless trails of the Tanzanian wilderness.

The sheer abundance of wildlife awakened a childlike wonder within. Lion, leopard, hyena, elephant, giraffe, hippo, baboon, eland, topi, kudu, dik dik, and, of course, wildebeest and zebra appeared suddenly, as if out of no-where, yet they were everywhere. While some encounters were thrillingly illusive (cheetahs hidden away in the high grasses), others were breathtakingly close and even, momentarily pulse-raising, like the time we came face to face with a great bull elephant who had no intention of giving way to our Cruiser. Quickly, Godson diverted our vehicle off-road, giving this very determined giant plenty of room to pass, as well as providing us with a great photo-opportunity!

A much anticipated wildebeest crossing taught us early-on the value of patience and filled us with a deep sense of awe for Nature’s Ways. Nothing can rival such a thunderous mass of ruminants braving dangerous waters for another day of life. That experience moved me to tears.

Another great surprise was the incredible variety of raptors and birds! Ostrich, egret, guinea, stork, flamingo, kingfisher, and songbirds flashed their shimmering colors and amused us with their antics. How do they manage to perch between those claw-like thorns of the acacia trees?

Admittedly, I lived behind my camera for the first couple of days. Then the sheer abundance of life all around me demanded that I come out from behind the view finder and absorb those moments of encounter which no photo could ever do justice. It was a decision I will never regret. While I still brought home a couple of thousand pictures, I think of them as tools to sharpen the memories I’ve tucked away as my real treasure.

The elegantly appointed tented lodges and camps provided a big exclamation point to the end of each day! Smiling, attentive staff greeted us with cool, wet cloths, pleasant drinks, and a sincere welcome (“Karibu”), then whisked us off to our tents for warm, smoke-scented showers with waters heated over open flames. Later, gathered in the crisp coolness by a crackling bonfire, we toasted the sunset then lingered over intimate, candle-lit meals underneath the canvas roof of the dining tent. With the night skies awash in stars and our seclusion broken only by the roar of a lion in the distance, we knew we were having the experience of a lifetime.

Many thanks to ADS’s knowledgeable and cheerful Dawn Anderson who spent the past year indulging every one of our questions with promptness, patience and kindness and helped shape for us a fantastic travel adventure. Asante sana, Dawn!

Elizabeth S., Clark S. and Larry O.
Atlanta, Georgia
Safari Dates: July 26, 2014 to August 7, 2014

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Best Graduation Present Imaginable!

Ever since I was young, my favorite animal has always been a cheetah and it has been a lifelong dream of mine to finally see some out in the wild. This sparked the idea of a safari as my graduate school graduation present and I could not be happier with this trip! From the moment we arrived in Africa we felt safe and welcomed by the ADS workers and the transition into new countries could not be easier.

From the moment we met with our driver, Claude, we knew he would be great and able to help us find everything we wanted to see. On our first day in the Serengeti we saw multiple lions and even a cheetah less than 20 feet from our vehicle! These were on top of the wild number of wildebeests we saw taking part in the great migration which is an amazing sight to see. (We saw so many other animals too, it just isn’t possible to name them all!)

Once we entered into the Central Serengeti, it seemed like lions were everywhere! We saw lions hunting, eating, sleeping and even playing with their young cubs. Lion cubs are probably at the top of the list of cutest animals you will ever see. Not only did we see lions but also numerous leopards as well- one walked not even 5 feet away from us (slightly frightening but absolutely amazing!) Our driver Claude knew I wanted to see as many cheetahs as possible so he went out of his way to make sure they were spotted- we saw 4 in one day which is very rare for such an elusive animal!

Although I have always been fascinated by the big cats, we saw so many other amazing animals as well- countless giraffes, elephants, hippos, crocodiles, and any other animal you can imagine seeing in the Serengeti. It was definitely an amazing experience and something i believe everyone should get to do at least once (as for me- I think I may come back!)

Kristin E., Rita R., and Patricia A.
Safari Dates: May 24, 2014 to June 3, 2014
Medord, New Jersey

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