Tag: Virginia

Thank You For A Wonderful, Life-Changing, Family Adventure!

We just returned from a magical 10 days in Tanzania. Our family fell in love with its incredible wildlife, breathtaking beauty, and friendly people. Although we went into it thinking this was a once in a lifetime trip, we already want to go back! Africa Dream Safaris was amazing to work with from start to finish and orchestrated a safari that was even better than our wildest dreams.

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Each Day Exceeded The Next!

This by far was the best vacation ever! The reason why it was so wonderful was Africa Dream Safaris. It was clear that we were in good hands from the moment of our arrival in Kilimanjaro. Our guide, Fadzil is a fountain of knowledge on the wildlife, the park, Tanzania. He is the guide all others guides go to find the big cats. He knows where and when to go to see the animals. Best of all, he loves his job, the park, and his clients.

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Thank You For A Wonderful Vacation!

Overall, for our family, our safari was an unforgettable and, most likely, a ‘once in a lifetime’ experience. However, if we are ever fortunate enough to go on another safari in the Serengeti, we will definitely use Africa Dream Safaris again. For anyone considering a personal safari tour, they should book with Africa Dream Safaris and here is why…

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Our Retirement Trip To Tanzania!

Amazing animals, excellent service, generous, warm people, exceptional guide – that describes our African Dream Safari in the Serengeti. Our ADS representative Dawn Anderson put together an unbelievable itinerary, with a great combination of tented camps and lodges. Each one with their own charm and warmth. Dawn was always available and ready to answer questions. This was our retirement trip and ADS made sure it was very special with a retirement dinner under the stars, Masai gifts, dances, fruit basket and sparkling wine and even a sundowner party and goodbye cake. They far exceeded any of our expectations.

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Much More Than A Vacation!

Oh my, where do I begin. Our vacation started on July 21, 2021, in Washington D.C. We arrived at Kilimanjaro Airport and a representative from Africa Dream Safaris was waiting for us, just as promised, at the airport. We were whisked through the airport to the Covid testing site, and in no time at all we were on our way to the Arusha Coffee Lodge. What a magnificent place! We rested up and the next day we were promptly picked up and taken to the small airport nearby for the flight to the Serengeti.

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Up Close and Firsthand!

Africa. Dream. Safaris. Each word had its own special meaning for this trip of a lifetime. Millions of words have spilled across page after page trying to capture the true essence of the magical and mystical land called Africa. It may be a cliche but there is no better way to express that this experience was truly a dream come true and an epic journey across the vast plains of the Serengeti and down into the breathtaking beauty of the Ngorongoro Crater with so many memories made along the way. This safari provided the ultimate opportunity to explore, investigate and learn about the animals, the geography and the people in the best possible way – up close and firsthand.

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The Best Trip Of Our Lives. Thanks ADS!

I am compelled to write this blog about our recent safari experience with Africa Dream Safari for several reasons. You see, I really had no idea what I was to get out of the experience. I am not an avid photographer and I am not necessarily an ‘outdoorsman’. I just knew that I was looking for something that did not fit into my definition of a ‘standard vacation’.

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Cats Were Everywhere!

We are a mother and daughter who work together as a real estate team in Virginia. We were long overdue for a vacation and we wanted an adventure. We got more than we’d ever expected. Our trip was beautifully planned by Dawn Anderson of ADS, and every day – often every hour – was a delightful surprise.

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One Of Our Highlights Was Visiting A Maasai Village

From July 29 to August 9, 2015 my husband and I were able to make possible our dream of going on a photography safari. We want to thank Africa Dreams for making possible our humbling experience in Tanzania.

The experience started with the planning process and the advice of Dawn who was key in helping us to put together a magical blend of landscape, wildlife and culture. We went to Northern Tanzania, visited the Northern and Central Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater, Lake Manyara and Tarangire parks. We stopped at the Oldupai Gorge for an informal education session about the footprints of ancient human ancestors.

The undoubted highlight of the journey was our flight in the balloon over the Seronera Valley and the visit to a Masai Village near Lobo valley. The tented camps and lodges offered the combination of the rustic flavor of the African Savanna with the adequate comfort to rest from long game drives and the African massage form the unpaved roads. We met amazing people everywhere that made our trip completely rewarding.

Our guide Peter was amazing, shared his vast knowledge of not only the wildlife but also of the birds and trees. We started our game drives before the sun raised and were able to keep going almost until the sunsets. Within the first few hours we spotted tons of animals, we saw thousands wildebeest crossing the Mara river, graceful impalas, colorful zebras, majestic elephants with their flapping ears, hippos floundering in the shallows of the water, tall yet gentle giraffes, bushbucks, ostriches, baboons, warthogs, lions, many different kinds of beautiful birds, and few cheetahs, leopards and rhinos!

The most adorable were the baby animals! It was so amazing seeing the largest cats and wild action so close. We saw a group of elephants that was not happy to see some lions in their territory and chased them, crocodiles attacking some wildebeest when crossing the river and more. It was a truly exhilarating experience!

To us this was the trip of our life that touched our hearts in a profound way. An experience we will never forget. We met people that are forever now etched in our memory. This was a truly dreamed journey difficult to put into words that not even 10.000 pictures we took can describe. Many thanks Africa Dreams team!

Ana and Gabriel C.
Alexandria, Virginia
Safari Dates: July 29, 2015 to August 9, 2015

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An Awesome Dream Come True

I knew the night we stepped off the plane in Tanzanian we had the right safari company ” Africa Dream Safaris “. From the moment they met us at the airport to the day they dropped us back off there it was just an awesome dream come true. From setting up our trip with Sharon to the meet and greet team of Mathias & Timan in Tanzanian to Mr. Emanuel our guide in the field they all were the very best. If your looking to do a safari, look no more, they are the best in so many ways.

Start to finish top notch but that being said I have to tell you if you’re going I hope you are lucky enough to get Emanuel as your guide not only did we see the BIG 5 we saw so much more and we got a great education along the way. This young man was so kind in looking after my mom who by the way turned 86 on our trip to teaching us not only about the animals but to also teach us about his home land of Africa and the ways of its people.

Every time we turned the corner it was something new and a whole new education for both of us. I know now that dreams do come true and Africa Dreams Safaris made ours. I will return someday and I hope to see my new friends or should I say new family again. From the deepest parts of our hearts and souls we thank you all.

Ric and Mollye H.
Virginia Beach, Virginia
Safari Dates: May 2, 2015 to May 11, 2015

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Our African Dream Safari

Our group traveled from the U.S. to Amsterdam where we explored that city for two days and nights, and then flew on to Africa. We arrived at the Arusha airport in the early evening where the ADS staff met us and escorted us through the necessary processing into the country. They then drove us to the Mt. Meru resort hotel for our first night’s stay in Arusha, Tanzania. The hotel was luxurious and the staff upbeat, polite and accommodating in every way.

Our group of eight spent an extra day at the hotel/resort to refresh after the long trip. We began our safari adventure with a smooth bush flight to the North Serengeti. The flight gave us an aerial view of the African mountains, volcano craters, and the plains. The very first day of our adventure was unbelievable. My words will not do justice to the thrills and excitement we all felt repeatedly as we observed Africa’s wild life in the beautiful and natural Serengeti.

Our ADS driver guides, Ellison and Emmanuel, knew exactly where to take us to see the most animals in the least amount of time. They told us we’d need patience for good observations, but we didn’t have to wait long to see a Mara River crossing by a significantly large herd of zebras and wildebeests. We also saw some crocodiles in and out of the water, but no attacks during the crossing. What a thrill to see this magnificent event in its entirety so early in our itinerary.

On this first day we also saw lions, elephants, giraffes, hippos and cape buffalos. All of these sightings were up close and personal, made possible by our experienced and talented ADS driver guides. Each day brought new and different sightings. We observed the plains covered for miles with the migrating animals, and there were so many we almost came to think seeing huge herds of wildebeests and zebras to be routine.

Our accommodations at the Serengeti Bushtops camp on our first night in the bush were surprisingly first class. Both the facilities and the food were excellent. Plenty of hot water and electricity were available 24 hours in all of our camps. The staff was uniformly positive and service oriented. At Bushtops, I began my learning of a few Swahili phrases with Richard, a very outgoing and friendly member of the camp staff.

Awaking from a restful night in our tent, we discovered a few zebra wandering right outside. After a delicious full breakfast, our day in the wild commenced early and we spent all day viewing more and more of Africa’s wild creatures. One pride of lionesses numbered at least fifteen resting animals, and soon we saw two male lions atop the kopjes (a stony outcrop). We also spied a male leopard perched high on the kopjes. What a magnificent creature.

The next days were filled with sightings of more lions, huge numbers of giraffes (we saw a neck fight) large and small herds of elephants both on the plains and in the forests where the damage to trees was significant. Hippos were abundant in many pools and rivers and the antelope, gazelles, hartebeests, warthogs, hyenas and jackals became more abundant as we explored further into the plains. We even saw a black and white Colobus monkey running in a small forest, a very rare sight in this part of the Serengeti.

Our guides pointed out numerous birds such as vultures, storks, secretary birds, hawks and eagles. We even saw a huge owl. We saw ostriches, one that was performing a mating dance for a female, as well as flamingoes and many others I won’t name. And, we were able to drive very close to two resting cheetahs. As we watched, they ambled down through the brush to the edge of an open area filled with gazelles and antelope. They didn’t immediately give chase, but we knew they would sometime soon.

I’ve talked lots about our good viewing fortune, but I’ve reserved until now the one sighting in the Serengeti that all in our group treasures. As we drove past another kopjes, we spotted a black rhino meandering through the tall grass, only a short distance from our vehicle. We were able to see and photo this endangered creature from within 100 feet and closer as we followed her through the area. Many visitors don’t benefit from this sighting in the Serengeti. Ellison said this was only his second sighting of a rhino in the area after eight years as a driver guide. He told us there still are no more than 20 living in the area. What a thrill!!

During our eight days in the wild, we never ceased to marvel at the numbers and variety of animals that we observed. We spent two nights at the Migration Camp, also a very nice camp, and two nights at the more primitive Seonara Sametu Camp, still a wonderful camp. It was a thrilling experience to hear the animals visit our camps during the night. Our last bush night at the Lion’s paw camp was the most primitive, though the staff was always available to respond to our tiniest need and the experience was wonderfully wild, listening to hyenas howl and lions huff just outside.

Our final days were spent visiting Olduvai Gorge (site of the Louis and Mary Leakey discoveries of early humans) and the Ngorongoro Crater. In this conservation area, we saw more of the animals we’d been observing, though in the crater their behavior is less frantic than in the Serengeti. Here we observed lions, especially thrilled by two large males in open grass.

More elephants and giraffes were seen in the forest, flamingos and hippos in the salt lakes and the fresh water ponds, monkeys and multitudes of baboons, lions, and many more. And then again, we were fortunate to spot more black rhinos (they are more easily sighted in this contained ecosystem). We saw a mother and young rhino very close to our vehicle, and several sightings a bit further away in other locations in the crater.

Our last day included a stop and tour at the Foundation For African Medicine and Education (FAME) facilities in Karatu. This is a worthwhile charity providing medical care and education for Tanzanians. Our last night on Safari was at the luxurious Ngorongoro Manor lodge where the staff and facilities are all very first class.

We also visited Lake Manyara on our way back to Arusha and saw velvet and blue monkeys, waterbuck, numerous birds and fowl, baboons, hippos and flamingoes. Our last day in Africa was spent relaxing at the Mt. Meru resort before departing for Arusha and our flight back to the U.S. On the drive, our driver guide told us we were among the luckiest guests he has served, having seen all that we did, and now there is a clear sighting of Mt. Kilimanjaro fully to the peak. We stopped to take photos, of course, and then, back to the airport and the hardest part of the trip being…our long, long, return flight home.

But this trip, for any who ask, is the event of a lifetime. In every single aspect this is an adventure we are blessed and thankful to have made.

Linda and Ted S.
Huddleston, Virginia
Safari Dates: September 17, 2014 to September 27, 2014

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A Lifelong Dream Of Mine

Planning a trip to Africa for a safari has been a lifelong dream of mine, but it wasn’t until last summer I was able to convince my 20 year old daughter to join me. We looked at lots of different tour companies and finally decided that a private safari was the best choice for us. We wanted to be able to make our own agenda each day, stay at a variety of different lodges and camps of our choosing, and have a guide and vehicle to ourselves.

We had a limited window of time in May to make this trip happen and everyone at ADS did  heir best to squeeze as much in to our trip as possible. Many thanks to Sharon who planned a wonderful itinerary and was patient throughout the process as we bombarded her with questions.

We cannot say enough good things about the ADS staff in Africa. We were met immediately after we walked off the plane in Kilimanjaro and whisked through the Visa process. From there we travelled to Arusha for a short overnight stay at Mount Meru Hotel.

The next morning we were picked up early by the ADS staff and taken to the airfield to fly to the Western Serengeti. I must admit, my daughter and I were both a bit apprehensive about this flight, but once we were up in the air and able to enjoy the beautiful landscape of Africa, our fears subsided.

We met our fabulous guide Peter at the Grumeti airstrip. Within a few minutes of leaving the airstrip, we began spotting animals – gazelles, wildebeests, zebras, hippos, crocodiles, baboons, and many others. Peter made sure we were always in the perfect spot to observe these amazing sights as well as get great pictures. We even got a chance to see the migration of the wildebeests which was an awesome sight. There must have been thousands of them.

We were constantly marveling at Peter’s ability to spot animals. He spotted a Columbus Monkey is a densely forested area more than 100 yards away. Every time we asked him how he did it, he would laughingly reply, “I keep telling you, this is my office.” He openly share his vast knowledge of the behaviors of the animals which we found not only educational, but fascinating.

We spent our first two nights at the Kirawira Tented Lodge and could not have been more pleased. The staff was phenomenal, always making sure we had everything we needed, even arranging for my daughter to visit with the on-site doctor when she was not feeling so well. They all made us feel “at-home” and amongst friends. As two women traveling alone, we were a bit concerned about our safety, but at Kirawira and all of the other places we stayed throughout our journey, we always felt safe and secure.

Our guide made sure we were ready to start our game drives early so we would have the best chance to get the most out of our day. On our first morning drive while at Kirawira, we were greeted by a giraffe in the middle of the road. We hadn’t even had time to get our cameras ready for the day, but not to worry. There were plenty more giraffes for us to see that day.

On our third day, we drove to the Central Serengeti area where we began to see several different prides of lions, leopards, cheetah, and herds of elephants. A few of the prides we saw were in secluded areas where we were the only people around. We discovered that the main reason was because most of the other safari tour companies have mileage limits so they won’t drive to some of these “out of the way” places. One more advantage of using ADS is that they have unlimited mileage.

We ended our trip with two nights at the beautiful Ngorogoro Crater Lodge where we were treated to an amazing view from our room along with service that was impeccable! Our only regret is that we didn’t have more time to spend there. While in the Crater, our guide located the elusive Black Rhino making our mission to see the Big Five complete.

On our last day, we began our journey back to Arusha where we would have to say goodbye to our newest extended family member, Peter. It was bittersweet, but we were comforted by the fact that we will be coming back to see him someday soon. Next time, we will bring the rest of the family.

On our way to the airport, the ADS staff stopped so we could take a picture standing in front of Mt. Kilimanjaro. We could now safely say that we had seen it all!

Lynn and Nicole P.
Centreville, Virginia
Safari Dates: May 15 to May 25, 2014

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Green Season or Dry Season, That is the Question!

How to choose between the green and the dry season is not easily done. Each has its own unique rhythms and beauty, and both are equally rewarding. During the dry season we observed great concentrations of animals in the Northern Serengeti along and near the Mara River. Within five minutes of leaving the Kogatende Airstrip we saw elephants, giraffes, a mother and baby rhino, zebra, and wildebeest. It was incredible to witness so many animals sharing the environment.

Then, that same day we saw two major river crossings complete with false starts and long jumps into the river. Thousands of wildebeest were swimming against the currents, resting on the rocks, clambering up the river edges to safety, and a few succumbing to crocodile attacks. The sounds, smells, reverberating earth, and the clouds of dust contributing to the chaotic ballet that gyrated all around us were exhilarating. No National Geographic film, no IMAX film can ever compete with the first person experience of the great migration.

Seeing the many species of animals co-mingle with one another, displaying both the harmony and the harsh realities of their coexistence is a spiritual experience. The life cycle of the earth’s inhabitants swirl around you in the Serengeti. The symbiotic relationships are writ large here. Ox peckers enjoy a meal as they remove insects from giraffes, Cape buffalo etc. Dung beetles roll balls of excrement, creating homes for their eggs. Cheetahs repurpose termite mounds for observation towers as they search the plains for prey. Everything is intertwined, connected.

Dry season or green season, the animal behavior is all around to see. The grazing animals follow the rains, seeking water and nourishing grasses. Their predators pursue them. Then the scavengers arrive, awaiting the leftovers. Nothing is wasted. In the dry season, the animals head north to the Mara River where they cross back and forth in search of an oasis in which to replenish their parched selves. Dust rises from pounding hooves, coating animals (and vehicles and their occupants in their midst) a chalky brown. Wind blows the dust so that it permeates the air.

In the dry season the hot air and dust make the wet cloths at the camps a welcome refresher. Wiping away the grit of the day and savoring a delectable glass of juice prepares you for relaxing around the campfire and recounting the day’s adventures. Dinner, conversation and a bush music lullaby round out the day. Waking refreshed, you are ready for the new day to begin. Early morning game drives are spectacular as you watch the sun rise above the horizon, the world aglow in mystical light. The roads are dry and navigable. Only the desire to sleep in prevents you from enjoying magical early morning wildlife viewing.

During the green season, the rains may come (or not). What does this mean? Worst case, there may not be hot water for a shower (it doesn’t matter, you aren’t dusty!), the roads may melt into a river of mud that can’t be safely navigated early in the morning, and a late game drive may be cut short so you can return to camp without getting mired in the mud. What? Why would you go then? Because the green season translates to a more relaxing safari, not as much intense driving, but still seeing everything you came to see – just closer to the camps. The green season affords lots of opportunity to observe animal behavior without other vehicles around. It is an intimate experience. We felt like we had the entire Serengeti to ourselves, including several of the camps; a true private safari.

We also saw the grasses seemingly turn green overnight and saw the impact the rain had on the animals awaiting its arrival. To see tens of thousands of wildebeest pour onto the plains from the forests with their young was an incredible, unforgettable sight. The views of baby animals are unparalleled. To see wobbly-legged newborns, protective mothers, and playful babies a few weeks old is enchanting and memorable. Plus, the sound of the rain on the tents – unbeatable! Oh, and the landscapes – verdant plains stretching up to emerald mountains – stunning. The Emerald City of Oz on steroids.

Rain or shine the ADS driver-guides know the Serengeti and its occupants. They know the patterns, likes and dislikes of the animals, and where and how they sleep, hunt, graze, mate, and give birth. The important thing is to let your safari unfold. You will see the animals and birds you have come to see no matter the season.

What you can never predict is what special sightings you alone will witness. From the terrain, suddenly, without warning, right before you is…a birth of a baby animal, a cheetah, leopard, or lion chasing its prey, a mother nursing her young, a pride of lions resting from a night hunting, elephants arranging marriages, golden jackals and black-backed jackals sprinting, a family of wart hogs resting on their forelegs feasting on grass, hyenas soaking in a puddle, ungulates, giraffes, elephants, rhinos, and hippos displaying their behaviors, and Bat-eared foxes grooming one another; all sharing their secrets with you.

Each day is special. No day is the same. Many miracles and surprises await you. Green or dry season, both experiences are incredibly rewarding and are to be savored and enjoyed. If you are still unsure, green or dry season, just remember the only lamentable day in the Serengeti, is the day you leave….

Lynn and Phil
Oak Hill, VA
9-21 March, 2014

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Babies, Birds And Bat-eared Foxes.

Wow! We just returned from our second ADS safari and it was every bit as wonderful as the first, and yet unique. Our first trip was in September 2011 during the dry season, and our second trip was this March during the green season. Which was our favorite? That is a subject for another blog!

Our professional driver-guide, Francis met us at the Seronera airstrip and made us feel welcome. He asked what we really wanted to see during our safari and after saying “everything” we made it a little easier for him by saying baby animals, birds and bat-eared foxes! Francis delivered. We saw baby cheetahs, lions, elephants, giraffes, hippos, Thompson’s gazelle, Cape buffalo, and wildebeest. The gazelle was about an hour old and could hardly stand up – in fact it fell down with its legs all akimbo.

We watched as a mother buffalo walked her hour old baby down a hill toward the safety of the herd. Every so often she paused to sniff the air for predators that could snatch her baby. Since there were many spotted hyenas in the vicinity, we watched her progress for over an hour, rooting for her to reach the herd. As she approached the other buffalo, she decided to graze a bit, chomping on the new grasses. Fortified, she and her youngster began the last steps of their journey and rejoined the herd.

We saw many young wildebeests that had been born in February and thought we would not see a new born, but then, as we watched tens of thousands of wildebeests stream from the woodland forests onto the grassy plains after the rains, we spied a tiny, tiny wildebeest next to its mother. The mother still had the placenta attached to her. It was amazing to see these newly born animals and their protective mothers, reminding us of our connection to the creatures that inhabit our planet.

We not only saw lots of new babies, we also saw playful babies. One morning in the marshes near Lake Ndutu, we saw a female lion trying to sleep. Her two cubs were more interested in jumping on her, tumbling with each other, and biting their mother’s tail. We watched for several hours as they pounced on her tail, gnawing on it until she turned her head and snarled her displeasure. At one point she decided to get up and go sleep by a slumbering male lion. As she stood and walked away, one of her cubs was still latched to her tail and it went swinging in the air! We laughed at all the antics. Later she nursed the two cubs and then they made their way to some bushes for a nap.

Another special lion sighting was when we saw a mother lion emerge from a cave in a kopje with her newborn lion cub that Francis estimated to be about 10-12 days old. Lions open their eyes at 7 days and this little one looked just a bit older, wobbling about and straying from his mother. In the same vicinity we saw two female lions caring for 5 cubs. One female was on top of a kopje encouraging the other female to walk the five cubs up from their sun bath in the grasses to the safety of the kopje. We watched the lion parade as they made their way up the red rocks, stopping for a drink, before reaching the top and resting in the shade of the bushes. Extravagantly tactile, the two females nuzzled each other and the babies.

Birds, birds, birds! We were enchanted as always by the resplendent, yet ubiquitous, Lilac-breasted rollers perched atop branches. We also saw the European roller which was spectacular in its colorings. Small Bee-eaters shimmering in deep yellows and greens were a highlight, as were the Rosy-breasted and Yellow-throated Longclaws, Tawny eagles, Greater Flamingos, Lesser Flamingos, Verreaux’s Eagle-owl, Yellow-vented Bulbuls, Firefinches, Fisher’s Lovebirds, and Silvery-cheeked Hornbills to name a few!

Finally, the Bat-eared foxes. Francis found two of these fleet-footed animals one evening as we headed back to Lake Masek Tented Lodge. They took one look at us and fled – our photograph shows two blurs in the distance. We were elated that we got to see them, albeit briefly. Were we in for a surprise! Our reward for all of the rain came the next day when we observed a Bat-eared fox family drying out and grooming one another on the plains after their den had been flooded. We happily watched them for about an hour. Again, we were moved by how tactile they were with one another.

This blog covers the three Bs of our trip – babies, birds and Bat-eared foxes. A separate “highlights of the trip blog” shares a more general overview of our amazing green season trip!

Lynn and Phil
Oak Hill, VA
9-21 March 2014

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