I woke slowly to the sound of water … Kedafi, our Massai server, was filling two canvas sinks on the porch with warm water for us to freshen up for the day. The sky was grey awaiting sunrise and Kedafi cheerfully asked whether we would prefer him to bring coffee or tea as we prepared for our day on the Serengeti plains.
My wife, Patricia, and I came awake in our private safari camp tent for another day of exploring. The tent was great… the main room with a 4-poster bed, end tables and lamps; another room had 3 partitions for a chemical toilet, a shower, and a luggage/dressing room. What a great way to travel!
After a hearty breakfast with our personal guide, Pokea, we headed out for a day-long “game drive” in search of all the animals we had only seen on the screen before. Investigating the plains, often moving cross county without a road or track, we found lions, cheetahs, hyenas, wildebeest, zebra, and many, many other animals. What a thrill … getting as close as 30 or 40 feet from a cheetah mom and her five playful, young cubs, watching as two male hippos faced off in a challenge for their territory or finding a Pangolin – a rare anteater that many guides have never seen in person.
Patricia and I recently returned from a 12-day safari in Tanzania with Africa Dream Safaris (ADS). Though it is trite to say it, it was truly the trip of a lifetime. From our first contact with the company to get initial information a year in advance until we returned home, we felt that ADS had our interests in mind. Dawn Anderson, who helped us arrange the trip, was tirelessly helpful…assisting us in figuring out the best time to go and what to see as well as providing lots of useful information on everything from camera insurance to recommended shots and medications to electrical differences between the US and Tanzania. She never missed a deadline or failed to respond exactly as promised and the company provided lots of information that made it easy to prepare for the trip.
From the moment we stepped off the airplane (not our favorite part of the trip) at Kilimanjaro Airport until we climbed back on the plane (or no, not again) at the end of the trip, there was always someone from ADS actively looking out for us. We like to think of ourselves as a bit adventurous but who wouldn’t want to be greeted by friendly staff who can help you avoid the line for customs and simply whisk you out of the airport and into waiting transportation as soon as you pick up your bags? Then upon arriving at our initial lodging (which was beautiful, by the way) we were greeted with warm towels and cold fresh fruit juice and an ADS staff member to give us a quick orientation.
After a day of layover which included sleeping-in and massages – one of our smarter moves in developing the itinerary – we set off for the actual safari. Again, ADS staff were ready to help with our bags and to transport us to the airport (with a tour of Arusha enroute) for a short flight to Serengeti Park to begin our safari. Our guide, Pokea, and vehicle were waiting for us when the plane arrived. As the trip progressed, we learned to appreciate both of them greatly and count ourselves lucky in both regards. Now, you may be like Patricia and not pay much attention to vehicles but it didn’t take long to appreciate the Toyota Land Cruiser we were assigned.
With removable roof panels and one large rear window with canvas/plastic that could be rolled up, we had totally unobstructed views no matter where we were (and, of course, having the vehicle to ourselves meant that we were able to continually change our positions to see and photograph whatever we wanted.) In Pokea’s able hands we were able to go anywhere …. fording rivers, climbing steep hills, clawing through mud, and navigating various rough terrain.
As you would expect, your guide during the trip is absolutely the key to your safari experience. Quietly ensuring that all of the arrangements for lodging and luggage are handled smoothly, preparing the vehicle and packing box meals and drinks each day, tracking and locating every type of animal you can imagine, answering hundreds of questions – what kind of bird is that, how many babies does that animal typically have, what kind of tree is that, are we there yet, and on and on. Pokea was everything we could ask for and our impression that other ADS clients we crossed paths with felt the same way about their guides.
Our thanks to Dawn, Pokea, Kedefai, and the dozens of other ADS employees who made this trip everything we had hoped for and an experience we’ll never forget.
Doug & Patricia Butler