We just returned from Africa (our trip dates were November 24, 2013 to December 1, 2013). This truly was a trip of lifetime for all of us—a group of 17 family members aged 10 to 80. The entire ADS staff (office, welcome, guides) was most helpful in answering questions, making recommendations, and just taking care of my every need and concern. This made the trip less stressful and I was fully prepared to take advantage of what a safari could offer. Recommendation – read the following information early on:
• Read the little guidebook given to you in your welcome packet. It’s truly packed with very useful information to include: timelines to prepare (packing, immunizations, etc) and keep you on track and tipping.
• Read the FAQ area of the ADS – there’s even more here to include a “Daypack” or items to carry with you in the jeep. Also, what to expect from a bush bathroom, and developing and living by your new mantra: “Pack light, Pack Smart” http://www.africadreamsafaris.com/faq.html
• Look at testimonials on the website and take a look at what people are wearing. This is a good guide for you on colors and type of clothing. The animals aren’t going to be impressed either way, so be comfortable and appropriate in your choice of clothing. Bring your ADS hat and tee-shirt, as you will need them.
Our journey started when we searched the Internet for the right company that could handle our large family group of 17 people. Once we found the ADS website and spoke with a real person (Dawn), we were hooked! The one-on-one interaction and concern given to our trip details was a huge factor in our choice of which company would be appropriate for us. ADS actually answered the phone, responded to our emails and provided the information we needed to make the decision to choose them.
We never looked back and were confident in knowing we chose the right company for this very important family trip. They even helped us with choosing the right (air) travel company familiar with this journey and its details. After our return from Africa, I can still say with absolute certainty: ADS specializes in just Africa safaris and was the absolute right choice for us! We received very specific information from people who actually have been on this journey—not a generic answer from a large company who doesn’t specialize in any area of the world (we looked into them, too).
We were met in Arusha by the ADS welcome team. We stored our Amsterdam luggage with them and they provided our group with an emergency cell phone
We had three jeeps and very patient tour guides (Francis, Elson, and Pokare) http://www.africadreamsafaris.com/faq_DriverGuides.html . Each day, we swapped around to get a different experience.
All the guides listened to us and accommodated our desires to make our journey unique, special, and original. One guide had “eagle eyes” while another drove faster to see even more animals (our scout) and yet the other was slower and seemed more patient to wait until we were satisfied and took all the photos we wanted. With any of the guides, I never felt rushed at any time and they treated us with the utmost respect and tolerance. What the guides were able to accomplish for us in the just the first four hours was to strategically position our jeeps so that we can witness a magical event: a great wildebeest crossing of the Mara River
And, we witnessed this twice in the first 4 hours from two different groups of thousands of wildebeests and zebra! Even our guides were taking pictures which emphasized just how special and rare this moment was!
We all agreed that if we had to return after just one day—we would be content to have witnessed “enough” and had already exceeded any expectations from any member in our group. But we had 6 more days to go! And each following day built upon this great, first impression of what wild Africa should be. Each day was just as magical and packed with animal sightings and cultural experiences (including a Maasai village) that will be with us for a lifetime! We saw mammals, birds, fish, and even reptiles. We heard wonderful, strange noises at night and woke up early to catch even more sightings.
Note that we never really saw a lot of other people because we left so early in the morning. This was an obvious benefit. But it also allowed us to see even more animals being active rather than hiding in camouflage or shady areas from the heat of the day. Each day, we saw at least a hundred DIFFERENT types of animals and hundreds of thousands in number. This was totally due to the expert efforts of our guides/drivers. I highly recommend you consider this company for your African Dream Safari of a lifetime.
More Recommendations: Packing. Pack for Amsterdam and Africa separately taking into concern weight limits and locations of your journey.
• Amsterdam luggage: should be a regular sized piece of luggage (50 pounds limit in most cases). You can be reasonably sure to check this piece of luggage. Note that 25% of luggage is lost at the Kilimanjaro airport. Even if this happened to you, you won’t need this piece of luggage until AFTER your safari. You can let the ADS people know and they can locate this luggage while you are on Safari, if necessary. Also, the ADS folks in Arusha will store your Amsterdam luggage for you for free while you are on safari (no need to store your luggage in an Amsterdam airport locker-but this is also an option at additional cost).
• Africa luggage: you will want to pack light, pack smart for this one. Since 25% of luggage is lost at the Kilimanjaro airport, you will want to consider this as your carry-on option. Most major airlines limit this to about 26 pounds (but will they really check?). Most importantly, make sure it conforms to SIZE limits, and then take into consideration that you are limited to 35 pounds for the bush plane at the beginning of your Africa journey (you drive out at the end). For our group-they did not weigh our luggage for either the major airline or the bush plane. If you stay at one location for 2 days, this will be a great opportunity for laundry to be done for you. At some places, this is inclusive of the price. For others, it’s an extra, nominal charge—but you’re worth it and it’s worth it to you to bring less clothes and travel light. I fully took advantage of this. If you are looking for a backpack style luggage, this might be more practical as there can be lots of stairs at the camps that would hinder any luggage with wheels AND it will easily fit in your overhead bin for carry-on. Also, know that every place we were at have porters that can also move your luggage for you (don’t forget to tip!).
• Pack a Day Pack (see recommendations online and make this your own): https://blog.africadreamsafaris.com/?p=4388
• You’ll want to bring convenient wipe-type products not only for the “bush bathroom” event (if it even happens) http://www.africadreamsafaris.com/faq_BushBathrooms.html , but you’ll also find them for your face and skin (refreshing) and I’ve even seen them for mosquito repellant and sunscreen too. This packaging format is not only convenient, but more lightweight and easy to put in your daypack and to use while bouncing around in a Jeep. Since you’ll have most of this in your “carry-on” other type bottle packaging is limited to 3 ounces or less.
• You want to bring something for the dust, such as a bandana http://www.africadreamsafaris.com/faq_Dust.html . What these bandanas also were used for were gifts to the Maasai (I gave a red one to a beautiful little girl and she was in heaven) or other people you may meet along the way. So, bring more than one. They effectively cut the dust from your mouth and nose, and otherwise the sweat from around your neck area.
• Bring a journal or something to chronicle your journey and something to write with. We even had a competition of who could count more, different animals each day, and total for the safari. I didn’t win, but the youngest in our group was the overall winner! This one worked well (for any age): African Safari Journal and Field Guide: A Wildlife Guide, Trip Organizer, Map Directory, Safari Directory, Phrase Book, Safari Diary and Wildlife Checklist – All-in-One by Mark W. Nolting (Author) , Duncan Butchart (Illustrator). It has lots of information, guides and pictures of the animals you will see and lots of blank pages to write about your journey.
• You don’t need to bring your own binoculars (less weight to carry) as each person has their own pair provided to them (each jeep seat) and are stronger and clearer than anything you’ll want to bring with you.
Again, I highly recommend you consider this company for your African Dream Safari of a lifetime.
Todd and Alexander
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Safari Dates: November 24, 2013 to December 1, 2013