Tag: September

Being Surrounded By Nature’s Glorious Creations!

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!

Sarah S.
Boise, Idaho
Safari Dates: September 25, 2014 to October 6, 2014

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Lions Are Just As Magnificent As You Ever Imagined.

I have wanted to travel to East Africa since I read about animals in Tanganyika. As it turns out, 61 years later I made it to the independent county of Tanzania. My wife and I saw everything we hoped to see. Dawn Anderson gave us perfect advice on how to pack, where to go to see what we hoped for and wonderful advice on a rest period before returning home to the U.S. Zanzibar is a great rest and relaxation delight.

Our guide, Ally, had as he termed it, binocular eyes! What we thought was a lion in the distance he calmly glanced and told us it was a group of dry grass. Ally could look left, right, up ,down, shift and talk on his line to other drivers all at the same time! We missed nothing. The great migration was a sight to behold with thousands of wildebeest and zebra crossing all at the same time.

We saw what everyone terms the big 5, but we fell in love with “Tommies” and warthogs and elephants. Who knew warthogs loved to roll in the mud? Who knew just how cute young Tommie’s are! And our guide knew of a certain river spot where hippos enjoyed rolling on their back. Elephant moms are the best and our guide showed us several examples of that fact. Lions are just as magnificent as you ever imagined, both male and female. Their roar could be heard for miles and as you hear that, you can fall asleep with a smile on your face and wonder what the next day will bring.

The camps were great and the people even better. I have never met people as friendly and gracious as the Tanzanian people. Everyone greeted us with a warm smile and “Jambo, Jambo”. They are so proud of their country and its beauty. As you go through the Serengeti you will not see a single piece of trash or sign that a human had been there. This is land that belongs to animals and they allow us to pass through.

We would enthusiastically recommend ADS…they delivered on every single promise made. With special commendations to Dawn, our extraordinary guide Ally, and Faith, who held our hand through passport-visa check points and fully briefed us on our first day and debriefed us on our last day.

A wonderful trip ended with tearful good-byes to our new friends and thoughts of some day returning.

Dan and Emilie W.
Calabasas, California
Safari Dates: September 18, 2014 to September 29, 2014

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My Day-By-Day Safari Journal – September 2014.

Day 1: Welcome to the Jungle
Thursday, September 11, 2014

Thursday morning we were up at 5:30 followed by breakfast and the trip to the Arusha airport where we boarded a 12 seater puddle jumper and flew to a red clay tarmac in the middle of the Serengeti to pick up six others tourist. Next we flew to an orange dirt tarmac near the Tanzania/Kenya border. Thankfully, I have yet to get sick since I’ve eating Bonine like Tic Tacs. I mean, I get car sick riding to Boston and now I’ve volunteered to fly for 24 hours, then get on a very small plane, to which Greg at one point said, do you feel how thin the air is? Do you notice the lack of oxygen? I quickly glanced up to see there was no place for the oxygen mask to come down. But good news, I did not get sick! Our female, solo pilot, Niaoma, was awesome!!

We step out and meet Peter who is to be our tour guide and from now on known as our BFF for the next 10 days. One comment about luggage, ADS provided excellent advice about packing including the reminder that ‘fashion’ has no place on safari so it is hysterical when we get off the plane to see this huge, over-sized, must be checked suitcase. I look at Greg and we both thank ADS after we stopped laughing. We leave the airport straight for the bush and an exciting day of scouting.

Now, I’m going to try to be truthful in these reports, but as many of you know, I’m not above letting the truth get in the way of a good story as Greg is famous for saying. On that note, our first (Greg’s) official African Safari sighting was a plain, ordinary, everyday lizard. Luckily it gets better quickly. For future reference, the story will start with my first official spotting of the hippos in the water since this is much cooler! We’ve seen tons of hippos and I’ve come to love them!

Peter asks what we want to see and Greg leads with the rare Black Rhino. Peter expects something like this but refers to the idea as ‘no pressure’. A few minutes later I bring up the honey badger and Peter almost wrecks. Now he says’ he is feeling the pressure’. After driving for a couple hours in which we see Elephants, Crocodiles, huge numbers of Impala, and Giraffes, Peter makes a comment about ‘much less pressure’ and then we realize that there is a mama Black Rhino and her baby under the tree up ahead. Completely awesome!

Soon, five or six other vehicles show up but the rhinos are lounging in the shade so we move off in the distance and have our first ‘bush lunch.’ This is great—picnic lunch in the Serengeti, two days ago we were at work. When we finish, all the other vehicles have left so Peter gets us much, much closer to the rhinos. This is the first indication that Peter is very, very good at his job! The numbers of Black Rhino are tiny. Only 50 of these in the world according to the picture I posted on Facebook (or as Greg regularly corrects me, 50 in Tanzania) and we’ve seen 2.

From there, day 1 comes with more awesome animals: Guinea Fowls, Thomson Gazelle, Zebras, Wildebeests, Vultures, Waterbucks, Baboons, Warthog (from here forward known as Pumba [think Loin King]), Rock Hyrex (kind to elephants but we are calling gerbils, look up a picture), Hartebuck, Mongoose, Brown Eagle and of course, the ordinary Lizard.

Around 5pm, we arrive at camp to check out our “2 person tent” on reserve. Hopefully you’ve seen the pictures on Facebook. This place was awesome. We had an attendant the whole time, named Samwell. He escorted us back and forth so that the animals would not attack us. He prepared our hot showers, woke us up with a cheery voice and brought hot coffee to our tent. They did laundry for us and served us hot delicious meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner. When we were out touring, they prepared box breakfast and lunch for us. Evenings started with a camp fire so we could watch the sunset and the local animals followed by an all camp dinner (~12-18 people, 3 courses) then off to bed.

The coolest part was being awoken each night with Zebras and Wildebeest looking in the screen window. They ate right outside our tent both nights. Literally, they were three feet away. We woke up at midnight and two am. It was so quiet we could hear them biting and chewing the grass. Now, for those of you who may be wanting to have this experience in the future, I’ll share a word of advice. Pay particular attention to where you step the next morning after the Zebras and Wildebeests come to visit in the night. We awoke the next morning (day 2) at 5:30 for a 6:00am departure to be on Safari by sunrise. Flashlights were helpful and we both agreed that day 1 was quite a start.

Day 2: Cry Me a River
The Hunt for a Migration River Crossing
Friday, September 12, 2014

First, we want to wish Dave Cooke a very happy anniversary. We tried to send you a text but it would not go through. We were thinking of you all day and love you very much! Next, we want to acknowledge that today is Gentle “Spirit” Tew’s 3rd birthday. I updated Facebook with looking awesome in her pearls. Her Grandmother and Aunt Ruru who are so graciously staying at our home to spoil our two beloved babies while we are gone posted a FB video of them eating their birthday steaks. They are lucky babies.

Now Day 2 was a hard day in the bush. You know you can’t have an agenda or a schedule when it comes to the animals. We woke early for a sunrise scouting tour and it was beautiful. We are currently in the dry season which, since we are in the north, is when all the animals migrate south. All the talk around camp is to see a river crossing so that is primary purpose today. So here is what it looks like, you drive around looking for a large group of Wildebeests, Zebras, Elephants, etc who are standing on the edge of the river.

Once momentum comes, they all technically are supposed to cross. Simple, but not easy. Here is the problem. Apparently Wildebeest are not smart – at all. And they run in herds in the hundreds without a leader. So this is what our day looks like: We see more than 500 Wildebeests on a peninsula looking down at the river. Their friends who have already crossed are on the other side of the river cheering them on. More Wildebeests are marching in line behind them bringing the elephants. They just sit there. Finally about 25 Zebras are making their way up the shore of the river towards the peninsula. They too are looking at the river. I personally start cheering the Zebras to show some leadership and help out their Wildebeest friends. Well, one lone Zebra swims across the river. They came back and forth and run down to the edge of the water ALL DAY LONG. It was such a tease. The rest never crossed that day and we have spent the whole day sitting there watching. Spoiler Alert: All that time in the truck gave me plenty of opportunity to elaborate the story of our seeing a real “river crossing” based on that one Zebra’s effort. I have to admit, I was going to count it! But luckily, Nature smiled on us the next day and we have more to share on day 3.

On a different note, I want to share with you some of our new knowledge about going on safari. First, you know how they always say “If you don’t know how deep the water is, don’t cross?” They have not heard this in Tanzania. We are in a Land Cruiser and our driver just plows through rivers all the time. The first time he got out to check the tires and glanced at the river, but only once. And they have another philosophy that the dirt paths are merely suggestions. If cutting straight across the ditch, rocks, and aardvark holes will get you there faster, go for it.

Once we received a call that there was a crossing further down the river at another spot, so us, along with 6 other trucks fly to the other location as fast as possible. The problem was that we spooked the Wildebeest herd on this side of the river and they started to run as we were all racing to the crossing. I’d put money on our driver against any NYC taxi or NASCAR driver. He was awesome and I’m happy to report, no Wildebeests were harmed in our soon to be failed attempt to see a crossing.

Finally, since we are talking about the truck, I have to tell you about “checking the tire pressure”. This is what you say when you have to go to pee. Except for one station and the airport, there are no bathrooms in the bush. The bush is the bathroom. So, Greg and Peter are always going behind the truck to check the tire pressure throughout the day. I think it is a guy thing to mark your territory everywhere you go. Needless to say they are fitting in with all the animals.

Day 3: I Will Survive
Wildebeest River Crossing
Saturday, September 13, 2014

Hopefully by now you’ve noticed that my subject lines are song titles or parts of songs that I kinda know the words to. As you can imagine, not only is there limited cell service and wifi, there is also no radio in the truck when you are out on safari. There is only a CB radio that the drivers use to talk with each other. Never to let a radio, talent or not really knowing the correct words to a song stop me, I’ve taken to singing songs that go along with whatever is happening . . . hence the subject lines. Hopefully you’ll recognize them but I’m happy to provide live examples for those who may be unaware of any referenced lyrics.

I also might add that I am singing these songs solo since Greg, who is sitting right beside me and I know can hear me, just closes his eyes and puts his head down when I start. Joe Gray, we are missing you and Kaye on this trip. I’ve been thinking about our awesome duets of Sound of Music songs as we traveled across Switzerland a couple of years ago. We were the definition of joyful noise!!

Day 3 and we are up early to try our luck again with a river crossing and then travel to the next camp. We show up at the river just down from the camp site and sure enough there is a large herd of wildebeest and zebra on the other side. They are moving around and looking at the river so we think there might be a chance although we remember yesterday. Sure enough, they all begin to move down to the peninsula and down the bank toward the river. Yep, you guessed it—then they turned around and went back up the bank. Think Ground Hog Day, the movie, so we set back up and get ready to be patient when about 50 wildebeest from our side of the river decide they like their friends on the other side so they cross the river. We are ecstatic! Greg, our photo-journalist, is lighting up the digital camera and we hope capturing the moment to share with you. (FB photo of the day shows this).

I have to tell you a river crossing is apparently one of the biggest deals you will see during the migration period. We are beyond happy to be one of the lucky few to see one. On top of this, there were no crocodiles around and not one Wildebeest was lost in the crossing. This is gruesome business as we learned later that night at dinner. Apparently wildebeest stampede each other or drown in the river. Of course, they are fighting currents and crocodiles. One of the other camp guests saw two crocs at their crossing and described in detail the long struggle of the adult and baby wildebeest which the crocs eventually won. I was worried about having nightmares after just hearing about it. I’m happy to report that no wildebeest were injured in our river crossing!

Now it is time to search for lions. Peter isn’t worried and sure enough we find some displaying typical lion-like behavior (according to Peter) – this means lying around doing nothing but looking cute. Two lions and one cub. We are happy so we move on toward the next camp. Little did we know that this was a 3-hour race across the open plain. Along the way we did stop for a few sights including the angry hippo if you are on Facebook. Apparently he did not like Greg hanging out of truck snapping pictures.

On our journey across the plain, we notice all the carnage everyone. For example, we see a huge number of vultures having a party only to discover it is over a dead lion. Skeletons (fresh and old) litter the landscape!

We finally arrive at Migration Tented Lodge and, wow wee, is this place nice. 24-hr generator provides charging power to the room and this tent has double vanity and hot water on demand. A bit more like a hotel since dining is private but you find hippos grunting in the background, gerbils (known locally as rock or tree hyrax) running everywhere, and a Cape Buffalo (one of the big 5) grazing in the backyard at midnight. This is starting out great!

Day 4: I can see for mile and miles…
My bush name is Eagle Eye
Sunday, September 14, 2014

We thought we’d start this letter off with some insight we’ve learned from Peter, our guide.

– Animal life is tough. For example, if you are a male cape buffalo, at some point you are no longer needed in the herd so you are kicked-out by the young males and force to join a ‘bachelor group’. We have renamed them the Grumping Old Men group.

If you are an impala, then your goal in life is to acquire a harem. This is a large group of female (10-40) impalas with one male. So while the male is at the top of his game he spends the next three months chasing after females trying to run away from the harem and mating those he can catch which leaves no time to eat. Meanwhile, in the ‘boys club’ (a group of only young male impalas), days are spent eating and training to determine who is going to out maneuver the head of the harem because the head guys has lost his physical conditioning from lack of food. The day comes when a member of the boys club and the head of harem fight, the tired weak former head, is now left by himself to defend his territory alone and hopes a female or two come back. Very sad!

– Two rules of the jungle: (1) Run first, ask why later. Usually the answer is, I saw you running so I ran too. (2) See before being seen. This should be self-explanatory.

– When meeting a wild animal, don’t run – you’ll look like prey! Instead stand as tall as you can and look as big as you can. Unless you are meeting a cape buffalo in which case you want to lay on the ground so they can’t scoop you up with their pointy horns or head butt you!

– If you ever get lost in the bush, eat what baboons eat and you should survive. And all cactus are poisonous, including their red berries and some will blind you if their milk gets in your eyes. We’ll share more words of wisdom later.

Game drive today was in a new area of the North Serengeti with has much more water and more trees, i.e. a denser woodland area. The morning begins with me spotting hyenas, Peter spotting lions, and me spotting a serval. (This is a beautiful small cat that looks like a leopard). At this point Greg mumbles something about pressure since Peter and I seem to be on the top of our game and Greg hasn’t seen anything. Peter starts calling me “Eagle Eye” (my bush name now moving forward) and even states he doesn’t have to worry about missing an animal out of the left side of the truck because I’m looking.

Wait until you see the lion pictures. Peter took us right up to them!

More search leads to another lion spotting and then the last remaining member of the Big 5 – the leopard. He is perched in a tree but seems ready to move and sure enough climbs down and walks right at us. Hoping these pictures turn out great! The rest of the day was spent looking at and for animals. I should mention our awesome lunch. Three course picnic, camping chairs, and a spectacular view with gazelles, zebra, giraffe, and elephants all in sight!

Our tented camp tonight is like a resort. It has double vanity, leather club chairs and a hairdryer. It also has a pool and individual dinner times available. It is really nice and hard to believe we are in bush.

We were reminded today that we are in the jungle and anything goes. To date, three male elephants and two male zebras have exposed themselves to us and everyone else around. We also watched a gazelle mount another as they were walking across the plain with the herd. Back at the lodge after a long day of game driving, just before dinner 11 or 12 elephants strolled across our backyard. (Videos on FB) We can’t wait to see who visits tonight.

Fast forward to the end of the day and Peter and I have spotted all kinds of animals. As is customary in the bush, we often acknowledge the difficulty of the spot and the skill it takes by telling each other “Well Spotted”. Greg unfortunately has spotted an enormous and quite obvious elephant walking in the road ahead of our truck and a plethora of lizards on rocks. We throw him a bone of “Well Spotted” on the last rock. At least he takes excellent pictures.

Speaking of pictures, consider yourself forewarned . . . Greg is out of control. He has moved away from trying to capture the moment with one perfect picture to just holding down the button throughout the entire episode. It takes 2 pictures to capture a leopard taking one step. One day he came back to the tent with 1682 pictures. If you ask to see pictures, you should either plan to visit for a couple of hours or be very specific about what you’d like to see like “Your top 10 pictures from the trip” or your “best shot of the black rhino” etc. 🙂

Day 5: You’re going to hear me ROAR
Big Cat Diaries
Monday, September 15, 2014

We are up early as we are leaving the luxury accommodations (Migration Tented Lodge) in the Grumati Valley for a tented camp (Seronera Sametu Camp) in the Central Serengeti. This will be a long drive but before we leave the Valley, Peter has a special treat planned. Here is a good place to mention our interactions with Peter…I think he likes keeping us in suspense. He never tells us much about his plans for the day and we don’t quiz him like other people do their driver/guides. We have come to really trust Peter’s instincts and plans so basically each day is a big surprise.

After a bit of a drive, we stop to ‘check the tire pressure’ and Greg says “isn’t this the place we saw the Leopard,” like he knows where he is. The Tew map instinct has been a little confused on this new continent but he is starting to figure things out. Peter says no but over in that direction is the place and I am hoping he is back in the tree. After a short drive, we see the tree and sure enough the huge Leopard is there finishing breakfast (looks like a Reedback, another medium sized antelope).

Greg starts shooting pictures and after a bit the cat decides to get down and walk around…I swear it seems like it is showing off for us. We are the only ones in site, no one else around and this is great. So often cats just lay around and sleep—Peter refers to this as typical cat-like behavior. Sleep 22 hrs, hunt/eat 2 hrs per day. Sleeping involves looking up, rolling over, stretching, then back to sleep (there will be pictures of this behavior later). According to Peter, this Leopard’s behavior is a special treat and we feel blessed. Anything else the day offers will be bonus. On the way out, I spot another Leopard but he is shy and runs away quickly so we don’t see much of him.

We head for the Central Serengeti which, we believe, will offer lots of cat sighting possibilities. We believe this by collecting clues from Peter—he never comes right out and says this but drops lots of hints. The drive is long and bumpy. They call the bumpy roads an “African Massage” free of charge included with the safari package. I’m being massaged about 12 hours a day but the area is beautiful so it is fine.
Lots of animal sightings along the way including some very smelly Hippos, Greg gets an amazing shot of an African Fish Eagle in flight.

Lunch is at the picnic/Hippo pool area. We get a lesson about one of the Small 5, the Lion Ant. Peter’s range of knowledge is great and Greg loves all this talk. Just like the Big 7 and the Ugly 5, there is also the Small 5 (we may have to consider a Small 7, but based on measly response from my plea of a Big 7, this may need to wait until we get some momentum). The Small 5 include: Lion Ant, Buffalo Weaver (bird), Rhino Beetle, Leopard Tortoise and Elephant Shrew (mouse with a trunk).

On the way into the camp, we spot another Leopard on a set of Kopji’s (Swahili for head since this big rocks look like heads) displaying cat-like behavior. Three Leopards in one day. We met a couple at the end of their safari still looking for a Leopard, so we feeling quite lucky. Moments later, we see what appears to be a very hungry Lion. We track her for a while as she prepares to ambush a Zebra…after about 30 minutes she pounces but comes up empty. She quickly returns to the river valley and a small Zebra wonders into the same creek. We think for sure this will be dinner but she misses again. I personally think this is God doing for us what we couldn’t do for ourselves. I wanted to see a hunt but did not want to see a kill. I wish I had a chicken or something to give to the hungry Lion but I’m glad she missed on tonight’s dinner. I’ll sleep better for sure, but I do wish I had a raw chicken or something to give the Lion.

With no other animals in sight we leave for camp, a delicious dinner with the other safari teams and then bed.

Day 6: Up Up and Away in my Beautiful Balloon
Bucket list item checked, and still alive to tell about it!
Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Today was a big day! I’ve always wanted to take a hot air balloon ride but have been too scared to actually do it. They aren’t safe and I’m scared of heights – not a good combination. But every Fall they launch in my area to watch the trees change colors and as they pass over my house, I think, “one day”. Well, no more! Greg saw fit to change all of this and we are both taking our first ride at sunrise over the Serengeti.

Now, I know this isn’t a good idea. First, he wouldn’t let me read the disclaimer you have to sign before taking this ‘high risk activity’. He told me don’t read it, just sign it. And I did. I appreciate the advice many of you gave me, including the best from my father-in-law, James, who said, sit at the bottom of the basket, tuck in the crash position, don’t stand up, don’t look out and whatever you do, don’t lean over the side! Now, my father is probably not at all surprised that I didn’t listen. I stood up, looked out, videotaped several scenes and even leaned – just a little. Then, I almost died in the crash landing!! I’m not being dramatic, it is true.

The flight was delayed because it was too windy. It has be less than 12 mph winds before they let you go. We waited about 15 minutes, the winds died and we race off. Normally a flight is 45-75 minutes depending on wind speed. Our flight was 42 minutes. The pilot said when we landed we were traveling 17 knots. He was so happy – it was one of his fastest landings ever. Ugh. You have to sit down and hold on the basket while you land. The pilot was excellent at telling us what to expect, telling us to keep our heads down, expect another bump, expect the drag, this is all normal he is saying. I’m not sure what is going on but apparently my crash position and scared to death look have Greg worried. He keeps telling me I’m fine and I just remember thinking this is what it feels like when your plane crashes and I keep saying (I’m not sure why) no, no, no, no, no. Then we stop, our pilot tells us to stay calm and keep in place to make sure the wind doesn’t pick up the deflated balloon and our basket for another drag. There is a tremendous cloud of dust (we are travelling in the dry season) and we are covered, I mean really covered from head to toe, in red dirt dust.

After we get out, and realize we are alive, we did make, I think, that was awesome!!!! I’m so glad we did that!!! This is why I love Greg. He continually pushes me out of my comfort zone, has me experience breath taking adventures and I’m still alive to talk about it. You can see a picture of another balloon landing and a few of our pictures on FB. My only recommendation is that if you have neck or back problems, you should skip this activity. I was sore for about a day but am recovering now.

Also, before I end I need to give Greg another kudo. Believe it or not, he was the lone person in a balloon of 17 people to spot the lion laying on the field by the river. He may be getting his mojo! All the other passengers in the after balloons can thank him as well because our pilot called them and they actually went over to get a closer look.

As if a hot air balloon ride and English breakfast out on the Serengeti isn’t enough to make this the best day ever. We also spot the thus far elusive Cheetah. She is sleek and beautiful and apparently hungry. We are lucky enough to take awesome pictures (warning to you again regarding Greg’s picture taking enthusiasm) of her scanning the horizon.

She starts walking and comes right up to our truck. She was so close that the picture we posted on Facebook is from my iPhone. Then we got to see a beautiful thing . . . her mosey on out to the herd of Thomson Gazelles (also known as Tommies or Cheetah food) and start walking around looking for a weakling. The Tommies are nervous and running in every direction. She keeps calm and keeps walking. Sure enough, she spots her prey. A baby Tommie laying in the field clueless as to what is going on. The Cheetah, need I remind you, the fastest creature on earth, takes off running with the herd. In no time she passes several adults Tommies at full-speed almost as if they were standing still. She sweeps the baby up and kills it instantly. She then walks back to a shaded area to enjoy dinner.

Later that afternoon, we get to see a pride of about 14 lions who also just enjoyed a kill of one of their favorite meals, our guess is Wildebeest based on the leftover hoofed leg. Thankfully we did not see the kill or the eating of the kill. We came across 14 fat and happy kitties laying under a tree. It was hilarious to see. Their stomachs were so big – they looked like beached whales next to the river. They were sleeping on their backs, stretching, fully content and displaying serious cat-like behavior. Peter says this is what overindulgence looks like. It was great!

By now you know we love Peter. He is such an awesome guide. Here is an example. As we are watching another set of three lions and three cubs who are part of the same pride as the 14 lions above, Peter is scanning the horizon with his binoculars. He then says, “Hmm, I might see something out there under that tree”. So we wrap up and head towards the horizon and the tree. On the way Peter says he thought he saw something that might have been a foot. No kidding, we get to the tree and there are the 2 male lions in charge of this pride right under the tree, fat and happy haven also just eaten some of the Wildebeest dinner, and one is sleeping on his back with his foot in the air. Now we also have great pictures of male lions with full grown manes.
This by far is my favorite day of the safari. We leave to head back to camp, watch the sunset, eat dinner and then to bed for another adventure tomorrow.

Day 7: In the Jungle, the Mighty Jungle, the Lion Sleeps Tonight
Love is in the air
Wednesday, September 17, 2014

This morning starts with the most awesome sunrise yet. Greg loves sunrises and sunsets so getting up early everyday has offered many opportunities. Sametu camp has a great location for sunrises so I find Greg outside in the chair with his camera prompt on a table to take still pictures in the limited light. Wait til you see these pictures, they are very good.

This is another travel day so we start rather early with breakfast at camp then an off-road route to look for Lions. We see our first group of Hyneas with cubs—we quickly remember that all pups are cute and this appears to also hold for one of the Ugly 5. One male and one female Lion are spotted (of course by Peter) so we go over to have a look. These are referred to as ‘honeymooners’ because when a female Lion is in heat the oldest/strongest male goes off from the pride to mate for several days. We don’t see any action as it appears they are tried and near the end of their time together. It is fascinating to watch this lion behavior.

Just off in the distance is another male lion; this pride seems to have three male leaders. This male is basically watch guard in case anyone shows up to cause trouble for the honeymooners. He is within sight of the honeymooners but at a good distance for privacy (if they care, which I don’t believe they do). Just around the corner is the third male with several females and cubs. The day is off to a fast start with 12 lions sighted before 7am.

Driving along leads us to another Cheetah on the hunt for food. She seems to be on a plain mostly by herself and a few Zebra (not Cheetah food). They are watching her to be sure she remembers she doesn’t eat Zebras and sure enough, she shows no interest in them. We watch her for a while; then check on the full, happy cats from yesterday, then return to the Cheetah. Her food is far away in the distance and since we have a long drive to the Crater left, we decide to move on. Along the way to the Crater, we encounter 3 more Cheetahs bringing the total to 6. After we spot the fourth one, Peter says something about ‘promises keep.’ It turns out that along the way he said he hoped to see 3 or 4 Cheetahs, again other groups had seen none and several guides asked Peter if he had seen any up North since they were leaving the central without seeing any Cheetahs. Peter is so funny! Within minutes we find the other two Cheetahs (5 and 6, likely mother and her cub) and before Peter points out the cats, he says ‘bonus time’ then shows us the two Cheetahs on the kopjis under a tree.

Lunch on the top of a kopjis where the Serengeti National Park ends and the Ngorongoro Conservation begins. The difference between the two is that no human live in the national park but Maasai (the local, indigenous people) live within the conservative area. This is a long, bumpy, and dusty trip to the Crater. After all the paperwork, we descend to the Crater floor in hopes of finding Flamingos for Greg’s Aunt Ruth and more Black Rhino for Greg. The Crater is the most likely place to see the Black Rhino since there are 23 in this confined region. We are in the crater for 10 minutes when Peter does it again. ‘Do you see that black spot in the distance.’ We both look and think, well maybe. Peter heads that way and sure enough, two more Black Rhino in the distance bringing our total to four. One big difference between the Crater and the North Serengeti is that we must stay on the roads here so we can’t get a close-up look at the rhino. We are all happy to have the pressure removed since sighting Black Rhino’s was the major objective for tomorrow morning. With this sighting down, we are free to see what the Crater offers tomorrow morning.

The camp (Lion’s Paw tented camp) is the only camp located inside the crater but it is on the rim at the other side from where we entered so we make our way across the floor of the Crater and up the other side. We are glad to be at our home for the night since this was a long but exciting day. It was cold on the rim (high elevation) and this is the first time we have a heater in our tent. We are looking forward to tomorrow’s adventure.

Day 8: Wanted Dead or Alive
Hyenas are terrible predators!
Thursday, September 18, 2014

The goal for the Crater is to be the first group onto the floor for sunrise and black rhino sightings. We make it down in time but the sunrise is only average; however, the lion cub sightings are spectacular. First we encounter a group of two lions and three small cubs. The cubs are quite rambunctious—running, playing in the mud, ‘attacking’ each other and their mother. This is awesome! After a time we move on and Peter stops the vehicle and asks ‘do you see this’ looking over the side at the dirt. The man is tracking lion footprints in the dirt road while driving. Really! Greg asks how old the footprints are and Peter guesses not more than 2 hrs. It turns out the answer is about 20 minutes since just up the road are two more lions and three more cubs. These cubs are a bit older but just as playful. This is great fun and the cats here are more accustomed to cars so they walk right up to the car. First the cub comes to investigate, then momma comes over to make sure everything is okay. She decides to taste the spare tire of the vehicle in front of us, amazing! That spare tire cover now has several holes.

After many great pictures and lots of heart-warming fun, we go to see something that Peter thinks everyone should see—that is a kill. There is a pack of Hyena tracking a Wildebeest. When we get there, they have him down in a creek and are finishing the job—this is very unpleasant. Greg points out flamingos in the lake on the other side. Of course this is life in the jungle and in reality the wildebeest and others serve as food for the predators but it is still unpleasant to witness firsthand. I try to sing Circle of Life but it just isn’t helping. The problem with Hyena is they don’t know how to kill their prey. They disable it enough to stop and then start eating. The wildebeest was crying out for help until eventually he died. I was looking at flamingos but I could still hear. Needless to say, I start crying. We have to leave and the mood is quite dark for the next hour. Hyenas are #1 on the Ugly 5 list and this is now my least favorite day on the safari.

Luckily we move on and see many adorable zebra, elephants, and hippos at the morning watering hole. More game drive and then a trip to the top of the hill inside the crater. The crater was formed many years ago when the volcano collapsed and this hill is the former top of the volcano. The sight of the whole crater and all the animals is magnificent. Peter says it looks like there will be no black rhino this morning but we don’t mind since we saw the two yesterday. Anyone who sees 4 black rhino on one safari should be very happy. On the way out, we stumble into two more black rhino—for us, they appear to come in pairs. Again they are in the distance a bit, but Greg is about tickled pink—6 black rhino sightings!

We leave the crater for the trip to Lake Manyara and Tarangire. This makes for a very long day. There are apparently ‘tree climbing lions in Manyara National Park’ but we don’t see them. We do see the blue monkey which is a new animal sighting and Greg gets a nice picture of flamingos for Ruth. Lots of other animals but the trip here is quick since we still have to get thru Tarangire to the lodge. On the way to the lodge, we see an elephant with its head inside this BoaBoa tree. These are huge trees which very high water contain in their wood so elephants, who eat all kinds of things, like to eat this tree during the dry season. Peter says this is the first time he has ever since the elephant while eating the tree. After a couple of minutes, a small baby elephant wonders over and the big adult scoops out the kindling for the adolescent to eat. Elephants are well known to provide outstanding care for their siblings and this is a demonstration for us!

We are glad to arrive at Kikoti Tented Lodge after a long day of animal sightings and driving. This lodge has a ton of wood accents including a spectacular bar with animals carved into the woodwork. A quick dinner and off to bed before another early day tomorrow.

Day 9: On the Road Again
Like a Rock
Friday, September 19, 2014

Today we wake-up call at 5:30 and have breakfast boxes to go so that we can get into the park early. As we start the drive along the swamp, we encounter countless elephants, I mean countless. They look like a herd of wildebeests in the distance but, no, they are elephants. Peter refers to this park at this time of year as ‘elephant city’ and now we know why.Moments later Peter spots a leopard lying on a termite mound.

Over the last couple of days, we have been basically traveling with another Africa Dream Safari group (four Canadians from Calgary) so Peter calls them on the radio and we wait for them to show up. Since we are out early and no one is around we do off-road to get a close look at the cat. The pictures are truly amazing! Like our previous leopard experience, this cat decides to get up and move around. We now appreciate how big that first male leopard was. Compared to this cat, the first one was huge. This cat is not shy and slowing walks toward the other SUV. Greg has a great picture of this. Then the cat does something that amazes even Peter, it walk right up to our vehicle and, instead of going around it, goes right under it. Apparently the Canadians have some awesome pictures that we hope to get when we return to the States. As it comes out the other side of the vehicle Peter is stunned but the cat has more to offer. She looks and seriously considers jumping on the vehicle. For my sake, thankfully, she decides not to do it. I probably would have tried to pet her – she was so beautiful. Of course both Greg and Peter are disappointed! She continues her meandering so we go off to have breakfast.

She appears to continue her straight line down the side of the swamp toward the breakfast location so when we finish we go back to look at her. She is sitting in the shade under a bush but when we get there, she decides to get up. By now, we think this is just for us. It is about two hours later and now 14 other vehicles are here so getting up early paid off. This cat is full of tricks. She decides it is time to climb a tree. As she moves from the bush, Peter says she is going to climb the tree and sure enough she does. This is a rather big tree so you can imagine she has several options but she decides to climb the side of the tree facing the road so we get to see the full experience! Our interactions with those two leopards has been a real treat and a true highlight! Later Peter mentions how rare it is to see a leopard climb a tree since most of the time they are originally spotted in a tree and might climb down if you are lucky.

Shortly down the road we see a young male lion trying to impersonate a leopard. It is lying in a tree scanning around for food. Nothing is in sight and it seems to be displaying typical cat-like behavior so we move on…this is crazy, who would think that lions are now slightly boring! We plan to have lunch back at the lodge and rest a bit (hence you got some updates via email).

Since my husband is one of those people that always wants more, he would like to see all three big cats in one day. Having seen the leopard and lion by 9am, there is hope that a cheetah will full-fill this request so we spend the rest of the day looking for cheetahs, African wild dogs, and two rare antelope. We don’t see any of these but we do see a tremendous number of elephants (and zebra, tommies, impalas, wilderbeest, cape buffalo, baboons, birds) and exceptional landscape. We also saw several baboons climbing up a huge kopji for the night. It was awesome. They were very fast. At one point a young baboon is on the ground screaming and her mother comes down to let her jump on her back and get carried up. While is she carrying one child on her back, she is encouraging and nudging with her head another little baboon who is halfway and has stopped. Noodle, we’ve decided that if you could carry Greg or I on your back, we’ll go rock climbing with you!

We then head home to have a lovely dinner at the lodge. For dessert, the whole staff joins in a song wishing us a farewell and safe travels since this is our last night on safari. This is lovely!

Off to bed for the last night sleeping in the jungle. It was been tremendous.

Day 10: Circle of Life
Back to Reality
Saturday, September 20, 2014

Today is a bitter sweet day. We are excited to wake up and see what the day has in store for us in the bush but also sad that this turns out to be our last day on safari. Unfortunately, response to my plea for support of the Big 7 did not produce any funds so Greg and I have to end our magical adventure. The only good news is that I hear several of you are saving money for your own safari – Greg and I are willing to go with you when you get this arranged. I also hope that the silence is more a reflection that you too are passionate about the Big 7 and you are talking about it every chance you get! I’m sure our grassroots effort will be viral by the time I return.

Peter lets us sleep in this morning and we have a 6:30 wake up call, breakfast and on the road by 8:00. We drive around in the tall grass looking for Cheetahs, two rare Antelopes, and the almost extinct African Wild Dogs. We don’t find any of them but are entertained by Dik Dik (small Antelopes), Elephants, with two more indecent exposures from the males, and Giraffes. We also saw a few Lions laying under trees but they were inactive and far away. After lunch, we leave for our 2.5 hour drive back to the hotel.

Peter drops us off at the hotel and we say our good-byes. Greg is going to miss Peter, I can tell. We are met by our Africa Dream Safari hostess, Faith, to make plans for dinner, getting to the airport, etc. We take showers, I take a 30 minute power nap, and then start to unpack the safari bags and get out the business suitcase. We have a delicious buffet dinner outside on the patio overlooking a golf course while listening to Kenny Rogers, Dolly Parton and John Denver music and then go to bed. Our wake-up call tomorrow morning is 2:45am so we can get picked up at 3:30am for our hour drive to the airport and catch our 6:00 am flight to Johannesburg, South Africa.

This letter’s theme song is from the Lion King, The Circle of Life, and I’ve sang this song multiple times, daily! It started when I had to ask Greg to kill the jumping spider in our tent the first night — it turned out to be a poor cricket. Singing continued every time I saw a carcass or predator on the hunt, lion cubs or male animals looking for love. And it ends now with our own journey – our vacation ending and heading back to reality and work – it is the Circle of Life. Again, I want you to know that you have all been with us on this journey. I thank God for giving me all that I have, I thank IBM and UMass for providing us the means to do what we do, and I thank my family and friends who show me by their example how to love unconditionally, walk with humility, be of service to those around you and live life to the fullest.

Dawn “Eagle Eye” and Greg T.
South Deerfield, Massachusetts
Safari Dates: September 10, 2014 to September 20, 2014

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We Were Fortunate Enough To See Four Crossings – The First Being A Herd Of Elephants!

We had no idea what “A Trip of a Lifetime” could mean until we went on our African Dream Safari! From the first moments we landed in Tanzania and met Faith and Tman, we knew that ADS was first class. Faith and Tman made us feel right at home, and provided us with so much information and direction that we never felt a moment of concern. When we mentioned that we hoped to see the local coffee plantation on our extra day in Arusha, Tman took the lead and arranged the tour and drove us around the city and to the plantation, letting us drink in the sights at a leisurely pace.

(To see my website I created for this trip, click here: www.freidesweb.com/Safari2014 )

In Farther North, we met Malaki, who would be our guide and our leader for the next 8 days as well as our great friend for life. Within minutes of departing the airstrip, we pulled up to a riverbank and were immediately viewing a tower of giraffes, a pod of hippos, and a herd of zebras (yes, Malaki was a great font of knowledge, giving us these and many other terms throughout our trip).

We were fortunate enough to see not one but FOUR crossings – the first being a herd of elephants! Even Malaki had not seen an elephant crossing, so we were all in awe of this event. The part of a safari that you just can’t explain to your friends is the emotional impact it has on you. After the sheer beauty of the animals and landscapes and the warm yet humble welcome at the Maasai village, you feel as though you are a different person.

The camps that our ADS Consultant Dawn chose for us were perfect! The staff was so warm and welcoming, providing us with our every wish during our stay. They truly are ambassadors, not only for Tanzania, but for ADS as well.

We are so glad that we chose to trust African Dream Safaris with our trip. The personal touch and genuine care we received from the first email to Dawn to these post-safari contacts have been truly wonderful.

Jim & Stuart F.
Miami, Florida
Safari Dates: September 1, 2014 to September 8, 2014

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By The End Of The Trip Our Wonderful Guide Was Family.

As everyone says, “It was a trip of a lifetime”. We readily echo that sentiment. It was beyond our wildest dreams to see this many animals in this wonderful environment. Our traveling foursome enjoyed each and every moment.

Our wonderful ADS Guide by the name of Malaki made the trip even more special. We chose to include him in everything we did, and by the end of the trip – he was family! He had an amazing knowledge of the animals and an incredible instinct for finding them.

We loved our choice of tents and lodges and found each unique and special. The food, the sundowners and sunrises were exceptional. The hot showers and hot water bottles were a great treat at the end of the day. It is a trip we will always remember, and we made memories that will last forever. We are grateful to the staff at ADS for answering all of our questions ahead of time and making us feel 100% secure about everything at all times. We will not forget!

I really appreciate all you did for us and all of the silly questions we had. We truly felt secure the entire time. Everything and everyone was fabulous. 10’s on a scale of 1 to 10. The staff, the accommodations, the food, the game drives…all perfect!

All my best,

Gerald and Melinda J.
Weatherford, Texas
Safari Dates: September 1, 2014 to September 8, 2014

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Another Fantastic Safari From ADS!

When my husband and I planned our first safari to Tanzania way back in 2011 with Africa Dream Safaris, we thought it would be a once in a lifetime trip. We were barely into the third day, however, when we decided that the country was so amazing that we would return! This past month in October 2013 we made that return journey. There was never any doubt in our mind who to use, as Africa Dream Safaris had done such a spectacular job with our past safari.

Dave and I had thought the first trip was unbelievable…but this second trip….wow….words simply cannot describe it. The Northern Serengeti in September is nothing short of magical with a lush green wooded landscape teeming with wildlife. We had targeted September for our visit as we wanted to see the migration crossing the Mara River, as well as view Tarangire at its finest. And see both we did thanks to Africa Dream Safaris!

We started our trip in Tarangire and spent two wonderful nights at Swala Camp where we dined and fell asleep to the roars and grunts of lions roaming in the vicinity of camp and the footsteps of elephants walking near our tent. We could even see them from the deck of the dining area!

Our first guide, Michael, drove us throughout the park and showed us the huge elephant herds walking to the water, as well as more than a dozen lions hunting, eating, and resting under the shade of the trees. On our first full morning at Swala we left camp at 6am for our game drive and within a mile of camp we saw a lion nonchalantly strolling down the road. We watched him intently, until we realized that there were twelve more about four feet from our Land Cruiser sitting in the grass staring at us!

From Tarangire, we flew to the far north of Serengeti where we were picked up by our guide for the remainder of the trip, Arnold, in a sparkling and very new Land Cruiser with a sunshade. My husband was especially keen on seeing a river crossing and we were very hopeful of catching one while we were there. Well, within 30 minutes of landing on the Kogatende airstrip….we were right in the MIDDLE of one!

Arnold used his experience and network of guides to find out where the crossing was occurring and quickly get us there. It was absolutely amazing and like nothing we could have prepared for – imagine thousands of wildebeest and zebra clamoring and climbing over one another down the banks of a river and into the rushing water, all the while braying and barking and grunting and kicking up dust. As they tried to get across the water, some would get caught on rocks – or worse yet – in the jaws of a croc.

We found ourselves rooting and cheering as a wildebeest luckily made it to safety after getting pulled down by a croc. Or when a young zebra got swept downriver towards a group of hippos…only to bump face to face with a big mama hippo who submerged herself and appeared to give him a strong push that was enough to get him back upriver and towards shore. As if one river crossing wasn’t dramatic enough, we saw FIVE in total over the three days we spend in the North. We also saw tiny leopard cubs playing, as well as two adults leopards making some new cubs on a rock a few yards from us!

Our other reason for loving the North was the camp we stayed in, Bushtops Serengeti. We had picked it out especially as the place we wanted to spend our anniversary. If we could live anywhere in this world – it would be right in this camp! Absolutely heavenly and luxurious, while still feeling comfortable. The tents were out of this world, with an outdoor shower, couches, hot tub, and a private dining table right on the deck! But, it was the view and the people that truly made this camp. From our deck we watched the sun setting over the expanse of the Serengeti, while sitting on the couch with a glass of wine.

The camp manager and the entire staff were so welcoming and really topped off the whole experience. They made the night of our anniversary very special with a dinner on the deck of our tent, lit up by lanterns, decorated by rose petals, and completed with a song, cake, and visit from the camp staff and our guide Arnold who we had quickly already bonded with. Bushtops also had this insanely cool infinity pool that looked out over the Serengeti. After a game drive one day my husband and I cooled off in it and then stood back in the pool with Safari beers in our hands and happily sighed as we looked out over the plains and said, “Now this…THIS is why we work – for moments like this.”

From the North, we went to the Lobo area and then onwards to the Central Serengeti where we stayed at Africa Dream Safari’s outstanding Sametu Camp. Jonas made us feel right at home with warm towels and Safari beers when we arrived. For the first night we were the only guests and enjoyed a beautiful evening watching the sunset, sipping wine, listening to the hyenas whoop, and chatting with our guide Arnold. A lioness even chased a zebra through the camp after we finished dinner and headed back to our tents!

The Central Serengeti provided our “32 Cat Day” thanks to Arnold’s amazing skills as a guide. In ONE day we saw 7 cheetah (including two cubs), a leopard in a tree, and 24 lions (including 10 different cubs, four of which were less than three weeks old).

I can’t say enough about how Africa Dream Safaris made our second journey to Africa the incredible experience it was. Dawn flawlessly planned a breathtaking trip that went far beyond our wildest expectations. Arnold and Michael were amazing guides who showed us the wildlife of Tanzania, knew exactly where to position us for great photographs, maneuvered the Land Cruisers through difficult terrain safely (unlike many other companies we saw), and gave us memories that will sustain us until a third trip! I have no doubts that without them our trip would not have been the same incredible experience.

Having done two trips now to Tanzania, we have seen many other companies and guides and listened to the stories from their guests. They simply don’t compare to the high level of quality, professionalism, kindness, and expertise provided by African Dream Safaris. We will be back to Tanzania and will most definitely use ADS again! Thank you Dawn, Arnold, Michael, Jonas, and the entire Africa Dream Safari staff!

Moira and David F.
Safari Dates: September 25 to October 4th

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Viewing The Wildlife Privately Was A Huge Bonus For Us

Words and pictures will never quite express our feelings and memories from our recent trek to Tanzania. From the very first contact with Africa Dream Safaris, with our safari specialist, Dawn Anderson, to the final trip to the airport to go (sadly) home, every detail was attended to. Not only were our questions answered in a timely manner, but they were answered with full explanations which better helped us to prepare for the safari.

We began talking about the trip in January of 2013, making the final commitment in April to go on our trip in late September of the same year to coincide with our 30 year anniversary and our son’s plan to study abroad at the University of Dar es Salaam. We began our trip with a two day extension to spend some time in the Mount Kilimanjaro area. We flew from Dar es Salaam (where we had been visiting with our son) to Arusha on Friday, Sept. 27, 2013.

We were greeted warmly by ADS staff and whisked up to Ndarakwai Ranch. While there we enjoyed the stunning views of Mt. Kilimanjaro, a walking safari, a night game drive, and a day hike excursion on the Shira Trail. The food was superb and the accomodations were delightful, including the nightly visit of the bush baby to the dining tent! On Sunday we left the ranch to travel back to Arusha for shopping at the Cultural Heritage Center and a one night stay at the beautiful Mt. Meru resort. ADS staff picked us up on Monday morning and transported us to the Arusha airport for our early morning departure to the Serengeti. At last, our long awaited safari was beginning!

Our driver/guide, Claude, met us as we got off the plane, quickly introduced himself, gave us traditional Maasai gifts as anniversary gifts, and helped us with our luggage. Within minutes we were settled comfortably in our safari vehicle and had entered a land full of animals only seen in zoos before. Our first stop was at the Mara River to catch the very tail end of a wildebeest crossing. We would end up being entertained both this day and the next as we watched the herds gather at the very edge for quite some time, only to change their minds and disperse and regather later in the day.

Our first day of safari was quite successful as we saw a partial river crossing, lions, elephants, giraffes, zebras, hippos, a cheetah with two young cubs, and countless birds and antelope of various species. We stayed the first night (Monday) at Lemala Kuria Hills, which was a place of abundant beauty. We were surprised during dinner with an anniversary cake with our names on it and it was presented with a song by the kitchen/dining staff!

Our safari continued with a two night stay at Buffalo Springs Camp. During the next two days, the wonders of the Serengeti continued to reveal themselves as we saw a rhino with a young baby, a cheetah just after she had killed an oribi, a lion pride of 11 lions, and continued abundant sightings of zebras, giraffes, elephants, wildebeest, and water buffalo.

During our two nights (Tuesday and Wednesday) at Buffalo Springs we enjoyed a walking safari to the top of a hill behind the camp, a night game drive, and a traditional bush dinner served from an overlook area away from the main dining area. The food was delicious and the hospitality extended was remarkable. We felt as if we were personal friends/guests of Mark and Neil rather than international travelers. On Thursday we visited the local Maasai village before beginning our drive to the Seronera Sametu Camp. The village visit was both fun and educational and we came away with a renewed appreciation for the Maasai traditions and work ethic.

As we drove to the Seronera Sametu camp, where we would spend the next two nights (Thursday and Friday) we continued to see a great number of zebras, giraffes, elephants, water buffalo, hippos, and various antelope and birds. Jonas, and the staff at the Sametu camp, were very attentive and excited to hear about the things we had seen.

On Friday we were thrilled to watch a mother leopard with two young cubs and a recent kill. It wasn’t long before the mother and one young ran off but we were able to watch the other cub eat the kill for quite some time. Eventually a baboon family ventured into the area and chased off the last cub who dropped the meat and ran up a different tree. This whole event was thrilling to watch.

On Saturday we departed the Sametu camp with the desire to see an adult male lion – this was about the only thing we had not seen at this point. It wasn’t long before Claude was able to follow the tracks to a grasslands area and one beautiful male lion popped us as we were driving by. It was almost surreal how he just raised up at the perfect time as he was completely hidden in the grass prior to popping up. As we stayed and watched him, we discovered that there were another 15 lions also hidden in the grass. As we stayed and watched this beautiful pride, all 16 lions moved about and we were able to enjoy this in the quiet beauty of the early morning.

From there we ventured to the Oldubai Gorge and the Ngorongoro Crater and a one night stay (Saturday) at Lion’s Paw Camp. The crater was unbelievaby beautiful and filled with abundant wildlife viewings. On Sunday morning we were able to watch the drama unfold as two packs of hyenas enclosed on a water buffalo herd, killing one of it’s young. It was a back and forth fight as the hyenas would attack the baby and the adults would then chase the hyenas off. The hyenas would come back, attack again, only to be chased off once more. This lasted for over an hour, until the baby water buffalo was too badly injured and the adults were too exhausted to continue the fight.

From there we traveled to Lake Manyara and finally back to Arusha. We had a day room at the Mt. Meru Resort, a pre-arranged dinner at 5:00 and a 5:30 departure for the airport. The ADS staff saw us safely to the airport check in. Although we have many great memories and pictures from the trip, it is hard to summarize them in a short article – we felt we could have written a book!

A large part of the success of this trip goes to our driver/guide, Claude. He was attentive to our every need and desire, was excited to teach us about the wildlife and vegetation of the Serengeti. He provided us with wonderful picnic areas and he was able to use his knowledge to find the wildlife away from the other safari vehicles. This luxury of being able to view the wildlife privately and for extended periods of time was a huge bonus for us. All in all, it was the trip of a lifetime!

Alice and Mark P.
Prospect, Ohio
Safari Dates: September 27, 2013 to October 6, 2013


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Your Way Of Doing A Photo Safari Is Far And Away The Best

The trip was outstanding. Having our own knowledgeable, and personable, guide and driver, plus a vehicle dedicated to our exclusive use, made all the difference in obtaining the extraordinary photos we were able to capture. When we return to East Africa it will definitely be with ADS, because your way of doing a photo safari is far and away the best.

Here are a few photos from our trip that I consider exceptional.

Best regards,

Chris and Sandy S.
San Diego, California
Safari Dates: September 10, 2013 to September 22, 2013

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Three Outstanding Safari Encounters

We had a great safari for which I thank you very much. We saw a huge migration of several thousand crossing the Mara River and it was an amazing experience of life and death. Three outstanding and unusual experiences for us, even though we are old hands on safaris :-

1. A mother cheetah and her cub, on the prowl for food, startled a civet cat out of its hiding, the cub started chasing the civet cat and a cat and mouse game started between the two. All this while the mother cheetah ignored the civet cat and her cub playing, as she was more concerned about her prey , some Tommies a long ways off. We managed to get great photos.

2. During the huge crossing of the migration, some of the wildebeest drifted into the territory of the hippos. One hippo was not particularly pleased and was so angry he chased one of the poor wildebeest, already exhausted from the crossing, bit into his stomach and killed him , before wandering off, having vented his anger! Amazing encounter for a herbivore!

3. At the same crossing , a crocodile came swimming , targeting a tired wildebeest on shore , who stupidly jumped back into the water, followed by the crocodile, who tried to take a bite off his rump but did not succeed. Both were swept away by the rapids, the crocodile first followed by the wildebeest, who landed right into the mouth of the crocodile but the croc did not attack him! They then swam towards the opposite shore, wildebeest first followed by the crocodile.

The wildebeest tried to get on the rocks , stepped on top of the crocodile , got on the rock only to fall back into the water, with the crocodile following. Again the crocodile opened his mouth as if to nudge the wildebeest on to the shore. The wildebeest lay its body semi in the water as it was tired. We were expecting the crocodile to take the opportunity to grab the wildebeest but it did not. After a couple of minutes watching the wildebeest , it swam away! Can you believe that? It must have just eaten and was full or it was a very charitable crocodile. The wildebeest survived to live another day!

Meileen C.
September 8, 2013 to September 12, 2013

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We Would Drive For Hours And Never See Another Vehicle

We really enjoyed our trip to Africa. We saw more wildlife than we ever expected. Rented a 70-300 lens for most of the shots. Our guide was knowledgeable and excellent at finding wildlife and could spot things that we would never have seen if not for him.

We saw plenty of everything. I think when we drove “cross country” we had some of the best and most memorable views of the trip. We would drive for hours and never see another vehicle.

John, Lolly, Charles, Cynthia.
Baton Rouge and Sunset, Louisiana
Safari Dates: September 13, 2013 to September 25, 2013

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Sit Back, And Let Your Dream Come True!

When I was a little girl, visiting zoos to see the animals, I always dreamed of, someday, being able to go “somewhere” and see them free and out of cages. In September 2011 I began to plan my dream trip. After spending twenty plus years in the travel industry I started by reaching out to my contacts; from travel agents, travel professional to tour operators asking for their recommendations. I met with people in our community who have been on safaris (some more than once) and, of course, doing research on the internet. Did I mention that I’ve been accused of being anal?! I requested and received so much information that our mail person was begging me to stop!!

I started reading the information and weeding out many tour operators whose idea of a small group was anything below twenty people. Then I read more and looked at photos of six people (or more) in the vehicles and realized that I wanted more flexibility! I didn’t want to have to worry about getting the top of someone’s head or their ear in one of my photos! Or, not being able to see what was on the other side of the vehicle…or even not having the freedom to stay as long as I wanted to stay to watch a particular animal. So, I kept looking.

I noticed the quote on the Africa Dream Safaris information packet; “Life is not measured by the amount of breaths we take but by the moments that take our breath away” and I thought to myself, so true. I included their information in a smaller pile of tour operators that did the true “small group” safaris. From there I started doing more research, emailing each of the tour operators, checking with the Tanzania Tourist Board, the Better Business Bureau, Trip Advisors, etc. (Told you I was anal!)

Based on everything, including the quick, detailed and informative responses from Sharon (Lyon) I choose African Dream Safari and from there on life was easy!! Sharon, who I now refer to as “safari planner extraordinaire” took care of everything! I gave her my dates (another plus with ADS, they plan the safari around your travel dates!!) and told her I wanted to see animals, animals, animals. That was priority one and secondary, sunsets! I trusted her to pick the accommodations (after all she’s been on safari sixty times versus my zero – so who would know better?!) I told her I wanted to see and do everything and she got it all into our itinerary.

By July of 2012 the reservations were made and all I had to do was wait until September of 2013 for my dream to come true!! From my first contact with ADS until this September any question I emailed Sharon was answered so promptly (regardless of time of day or day of the week) that I asked her if she ever took time off!

When I started getting the newsletters I was so excited and in awe of all the beautiful photos and reading about everyone’s experiences I knew I had made the right choice. As the time got closer I told Sharon that when they assigned a guide to us to make sure they knew that, if our bodies could handle it, that we wanted to be up and on safari first thing every morning and would stay out as long as we could, so to make sure we got a guide who was ok with that.

We were so fortunate to have Ally as our guide. Within a few days we nicknamed him “Ally the AWESOME” or “Awesome” for short. Why you ask? Well, on our first day we saw the big five (including a lion chasing a leopard up into a tree)!! The second day we saw four of the big five. We would comment that we’d like to see a leopard in a tree with a kill. Well, sure enough Ally would find us one. Then me, being anal again, would say on a later day I’d like to see one closer, and he’d find another! We’d ask to see a giraffe with a baby, and literally five minutes later, there one would be. This happened over and over, at about day four or five I challenged him to find me one of two animals….a polar bear or a penguin, after all he’d found everything else so far I had to make it tough, if I’d have picked anything native, he’d have found it!! How he can see the animals at a distance while driving is remarkable! Add to that the knowledge he has about the animals, the ecology and the country – he made our trip awesome.

Our accommodations were each unique and special in their own way. The staff, at every location, welcomed us and was truly concerned about our comfort, making sure we felt welcomed and were taken care of. And the food, way too much to eat, even in our picnic boxes!!

To anyone who’s looking for a private safari, a once in a lifetime experience (which after having done it you’ll want to make it more than once in a lifetime) make your life easy, pick up the phone or send an email to Sharon and sit back, and let your dream come true!

Hallie and Walter P.
Port Charlotte, Florida
Safari Dates: September 15 to September 25, 2013

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Our Photos May Be Numerous, But Our Memories Are Even Broader.

Jambo! We have just returned from our safari in the North and Central Serengeti, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and Lake Manyara and we are still marveling at everything that we experienced. Our photos may be numerous, but our memories are even broader. We still can’t believe that we were able to see such majesty and wonder with our own eyes.

We knew that we would have a truly incredible experience even before we landed in the Serengeti, when many of the meet and greet staff and even some of the staff at the Arusha airstrip said to say “hello” to our guide, Pokea. Upon actually meeting him, we felt very comfortable and at ease knowing that we were in the hands of a true professional. Our first day was quite an eye-opener. We saw a serval, a cat that we both wanted to see, before lunch, then dined al fresco among hundreds of zebra, buffalo and wildebeest and witnessed the Great Migration crossing the Mara River. All of this before dinner on the first day!

The rest of our safari proceeded with just as much grandeur and awe each and every day. We saw just about every animal that we could have imagined and more, except for the elusive rhino. One highlight of our animal viewing experience was watching lions mating in the early morning light. Hopefully, they will produce a very healthy litter to maintain these proud and noble creatures. Also, we got to witness on two consecutive evenings, giraffe nibbling on treetops and vervet monkeys within the tree munching on leaves, right outside of our room while we were sitting on our deck at the Migration Lodge! Watching elephants meander up to a watering hole just off of the hotel pool at Four Seasons-Bilala was yet another of our many happy memories. They just marched in so regally and all had their fill of drinks and then marched off into the distance trumpeting. Another true highlight was the hot air balloon ride. Being our first, what better place to float than over the Serengeti, and with a wonderful champagne breakfast afterwards.

Of course, we want to thank all of the kind and gracious people of Tanzania for all of their warmth and welcoming ways. Everyone, from the meet and greet staff to each and every staff member at all of the properties to our departure team, was exceptionally friendly, courteous and professional. A very special note of appreciation goes out to our phenomenal guide, Pokea. He was an absolute treasure to be around. His vast knowledge, patience, diligence and keen eyesight were absolutely amazing! We miss him terribly already. Lastly, we would like to thank Dawn for all of her patience and prompt responses to all of our questions, which I’m sure were numerous.

Asante Sana Dawn! Thank you very much to all of the staff at Africa Dream Safaris and everyone else involved in making our dreams a reality!

Christopher and Lydia B.
Valley Stream, NY
September 18-24, 2013

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Despite All The Recommendations, I Remained Skeptical…

Randi and i became interested in a photo safari in the Serengeti after one of her colleagues had returned from a safari (with a different company) and shared some of her experiences and impressions as well as photographs. This interest was reinforced during a New Zealand vacation last year where we met a couple who had been to Tanzania and had an incredible experience with ADS. Despite these recommendations, I remained skeptical; I was persuaded, however, to read the ADS testimonials and contact Sharon Lyon to begin preliminary planning for what became the “trip of our lifetime!”

In preparation for this safari, Randi and I read a number of travel books and articles. Despite this preparation, we were both surprised by what we found in Arusha; I was not expecting to find a modern urban city which Arusha certainly is becoming. We chose to spend an extra day there before beginning our safari to acclimate before “heading into the bush” and this was certainly welcome after nearly 24 hours traveling from Rochester, Minnesota to Africa.

Our guide, Emmanuel, met us after our short flight into the Serengeti and we were immediately immersed in Africa, its wonders and incredible animals. During our first game drive we saw cheetah, lions, and a second Mara River crossing by thousands of wildebeest. We saw an enormous Nile crocodile on the opposite bank of the Mara (thankfully); he was taking the sun and seemed to have recently had a large meal. In some instances, we were close enough to have touched the big cats who were unconcerned with our presence amongst them (I did not expect this); one large male lion appeared so exhausted that he completely ignored our presence.

Each succeeding day brought new joy and unanticipated contact with Africa and Serengeti. That we saw so much of hidden Africa is completely due to Emmanuel. How he was able to locate leopards in rocks and trees from the distances that he did amazed us. On a subsequent afternoon, we were overtaken by a pride of ten lions and Randi and I were awed as these magnificent predators wearily passed our stopped land cruiser, brushing close to the side as they passed. So close that I was able to count the fat black ticks on the back of one adolescent male. Nor can Randi and I forget the young leopard who, with two siblings, came out of the grass and stopped beside our vehicle. He looked up at me for a long moment and then moved away.

William N. and Randi H.
Rochester, Minnesota
Safari Dates: September 2, 2013 to September 12, 2013

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I Can’t Say Enough Great Things About Our Guides

We got home late last night. What a trip!! I can’t thank you and your team enough. Everything was superb throughout the entire process.

I wanted to take a moment to recognize the crew in Tanzania. From the moment we landed we were greeted by the ADS team. Martus and company were extremely professional, kind and so gracious. It was a wonderful way to be welcomed to Africa.

I can’t say enough great things about the 4 guides that were with us. Francis, Russell, Thompson, and Rafael were terrific. Micheal, Richard and I were escorted by Francis. I can understand why he is so accomplished in what he does, and why his peers look up to him as a leader, and mentor. He was exactly what you would want as your guide. He was funny, knowledgeable, amenable to any changes in our plans if applicable, and very intelligent.

You should feel very proud of what you have built as an organization. I will definitely recommend ADS to anyone that has dreams of going on a safari. I want to thank you and your team again for enhancing my safari experience. It truly was a trip of a lifetime, and one that I will never forget.

Please let the guides know how much I appreciated their efforts. They are 4 amazing individuals, whom I will never forget, and whom I know will go far in their professional endeavors.

Thanks again Sharon for everything. When life has me traveling to Africa again I will definitely get in touch with you.

All the Best,

Deb B.
Baltimore, Maryland
Safari Dates: September 17, 2013 to September 26, 2013

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Our September 2013 Tanzania Safari

‘Adventure Of A Lifetime’…is the best way to describe our recent two week safari to Tanzania.

After our short plane flight into the Kogatende Airstrip, we met our driver/guide, David Chando, and began our trip into the bush. We immediately realized what a special person he is. He was personable, professional, respectful and all around great.

David’s knowledge of the animals and his country added to the success of our safari. His work day did not end after arriving at our camp in the evening. He made sure we planned the next days activities and he informed us where we were going and what we hoped to see in those areas. Next, he proceeded to clean the vehicle, stock it with supplies and have it ready to go the next morning.

After leaving the airstrip with David, in only 4 minutes, we saw our first animal, which was a Hippopotamus. Animal sightings were abundant and frequent throughout the safari and that was very impressive.

Our lodging accommodations exceeded our expectations. Particularly enjoyable was the Four Seasons, Ngorongoro Serena Lodge and the Swala Tented Lodge. The local staff at every resort treated us like rock stars. We could not have been more pleased with the service they provided us.

This truly was an adventure of a lifetime, thanks to the professional assistance from all the staff associated with Africa Dream Safaris. We have recommended to our friends, and suggest to anyone interested in taking a safari, to consider contacting the best organization for this type of vacation, Africa Dream Safaris.

Among the four of us, we took thousands of photos and movies, which will continue to provide us wonderful memories for years to come.

Below are some of our special sights, enjoy.

Chuck, Cathy, Donna and Dee
Fallston, Maryland and Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
Safari Dates: September 5, 2013 to September 15, 2013

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