What an experience, it seems like words alone can’t do it justice! When planning our trip to Africa, we searched for many long hours and compared a number of different safari outfits. However something about Africa Dream Safaris (ADS) made it stand out from the rest. Perhaps it was the excellent reviews, the amazing testimonials, or the dedicated attention provided by our sales representative Sharon Lyon; something just kept us coming back. Now we know first-hand what that something is and why ADS receives such praise. By sharing our journey, we hope to give you a glimpse into that special something that made ADS the perfect choice for our African safari!
From the first moment you get off the plane at Kilimanjaro, ADS is there to assist you by expediting the Customs process. We were then escorted to Mt Meru Resort, an amazing five star resort with all the amenities of home plus many more. The resort was an excellent place to stay and get some sleep after such a long flight. Of course it was hard for us to sleep too well with all the excitement of knowing that the next morning would be the start of our safari. The next morning we started off with a delicious buffet-style breakfast. The food was very delicious and always fresh. A trend that carried throughout our trip at all of our lodges and even with the picnic baskets we took on the road.
Our safari journey began with a short drive to the Arusha airport where we caught our flight that would take us into the breathtaking wilderness of the Serengeti. The flight was about an hour, during which we got to see the vast landscape of Tanzania. As our flight made its descent towards the air strip, we got our first glimpse of African wildlife as we spotted elephants, impalas, and hippos. After landing, we were greeted by the sights of all the different safari outfits and the excited travelers who, like us, were beginning their safari experience. We were soon greeted by our very own ADS driver and guide, Miko.
We can’t sing enough praise for our guide Miko. He was an excellent guide and helped add so much to our experience while on the safari. He was very knowledgeable about the animals and the history of the area in general. His ability to spot animals from a long distance and by sound alone was uncanny. The rest of the day was spent driving into the northern part of the Serengeti and provided some very memorable moments.
The first of these moments was when we witnessed a herd of elephants cross the Mara River. The baby elephants were so cool to watch as they wrestled with each other. Later, on our drive, we came across a pride of lions on some rocks. Among the young lions was a majestic male lion, which was not afraid to smile and show his teeth to the camera. Our luck continued the rest of the day as we spotted all sorts of wildlife, from zebras to beautiful African birds. However, the best spotting came in the late afternoon, with our first sighting of a cheetah. What made this cheetah so memorable was that she had cubs with her, not just one or two, but five cubs. With so much excitement and awe in the first day, we couldn’t wait to see what the rest of the trip had in store for us.
We eventually had to start making our way to the first of our safari lodges, Buffalo Springs Lodge. While all the places we stayed during our safari exceeded our expectation, Buffalo Springs managed to shine the brightest. The staff really stood out to us here, as they were very friendly and went way above and beyond to ensure our stay was comfortable and enjoyable. The food was amazing and we were able to enjoy the company of our driver, Miko, who was happy to answer all of our questions and to tell us more about the country he loved so much.
One of the best perks of Buffalo Springs is their night game drive. The night game drive gave us a chance to experience wildlife that would not normally be present or perhaps active during the day. A memorable part of this game drive was the hyenas, about thirty total, we got to see in action around a carcass. While Buffalo Springs was our favorite lodge, the trend of friendly staffs, excellent food, and breathtaking views from our accommodations continued with all of our lodges. The other lodges we stayed at included, Seronera Sametu Camp, the Ngorongoro Serena Lodge, and Kikoti Tented Lodge.
The following day we got to experience some of the local culture by visiting a Maasai village. We were taken on a walking tour of the village by one of their young scholars. He talked about their culture and their beliefs. We were amazed by all the vibrant colors of the clothing that the Maasai wore. Later after the tour, we got to watch the young men and women of the village perform a dance and we even got the opportunity to join in on the dance.
During our trip, we got the opportunity to see and discover so much wildlife. We could talk for hours and write hundreds of pages of our experience and still not do it justice. Starting this safari, we had big expectations of what we hoped to see. Within the first couple days into the safari, we had seen almost everything on our list, leaving the rest of the trip as a bonus.
Perhaps the biggest highlight of our trip came on the fourth day of our safari. Late in the evening we had approached a leopard sighting, when a commotion was herd. The safari vehicles raced over to check it out and to our amazement was a leopard that had just killed a Thomson’s gazelle and carried it up a tree. Miko helped get us a great view of the leopard with the kill while a couple hyenas were at the bottom of the tree looking out for some scraps.
Our luck with the three big cats (lions, leopards, and cheetahs) would continue on with us spotting all three big cats in the same day on two separate occasions. Going into the trip, we were concerned with how close we would get to the animals. While some animals required a good pair of binoculars to spot, we had plenty of chances to see animals right outside of our vehicle. We got close-ups of such animals as lions, cheetahs, elephants, zebra, wildebeest, baboons, and various gazelles, just to name a few.
While nothing beats the Serengeti, in our book, we had other great days at places like Ngorongoro Crater, Lake Manyara, and Tarangire National Park. The highlight of the Ngorongoro Crater, and one of the perks of ADS, was being the first vehicle into the park. This early start allowed us to maximize our time spent in the crater. The crater offered a chance for us to immerse ourselves amongst thousands of wildebeest and zebras as they migrated across the vast plains of the crater. During lunch at the crater, we got the opportunity to picnic while only a hundred yards away slept a pride of lions.
As for Lake Manyara, traveling through the park felt like we were making an excursion through a wild jungle. This park gave us the opportunity to see vervet monkeys, blue monkeys, and baboons up close and in action. The last part of our trip took us to Tarangire National Park. This park by far offered the best views of elephants all trip. We saw a huge number of elephants, numbering in the hundreds. We also got the opportunity to see lions around a cape buffalo carcass. At the end of the day, we were treated with the site of a mother cheetah with her cub. The cheetah made her way down to us and stopped no more than ten yards away from our vehicle giving us the perfect photo opportunity.
We want to thank everyone at ADS, especially Sharon Lyon for helping answer the hundreds of questions leading up to our trip. She was always quick with responses and very friendly. She helped answer any concerns we had and made the booking of the trip so much easier than expected. We felt very well prepared going into this trip thanks in large part to Sharon’s friendly advice and wealth of knowledge.
We’d also like to thank our guide and driver Miko, whose expertise and passion for the job made our safari experience so much more enjoyable. If we ever end up going back on a safari, we will definitely choose African Dream Safaris. We don’t see how any tour group can offer more than what ADS gave us. Long after the other safari outfits had returned to the lodges, we were still out in the park seeing stuff like a leopard with a kill in a tree. If you want to maximize your time spent game driving, ADS is the way to go. Thanks again for an unforgettable trip!
Bradley Parks and David Rivenbark
Safari Dates: August 26, 2012 to September 3, 2012