I would be happy to provide some reflection on our recent safari and Africa Dream Safaris. The bottom line, we would without hesitation book again with Africa Dream Safaris, recommending ADS to our friends. We can say unequivocally that Africa Dream Safaris lived up to what they promised and more! Michael's knowledge of Tanzania, passion for the bush and experience prepared him well to craft the perfect safari for our group. Our Africa Dream Safari was one of our best vacations and we have traveled the world. He spends hours perfecting your personal safari and does not stop paying attention and caring about your experience from the introductory call to after you get home! Michael hosted two separate conference calls with our group to review the itinerary, provide insight into what to expect and safari tips and precautions. There were no surprises on our safari - absolutely everything went as planned.
The safari was an incredible experience that is really difficult to put into words. You hear the lasting effect of the experience in the voices of everyone returning from safari. People often say they are changed by the experience forever and we were no different. There is no shortage of animals and it will be a dreamland for any wildlife enthusiast. The massive elephant herds in Tarangire and the big cats of the Serengeti captured our affection. Also, the sheer numbers and diversity of animals that you will encounter will be astonishing.
Our thirteen day safari began the 9th of October, towards the end of the dry season. We were whisked through customs and avoided a significant visa line delay by William and taken directly to the KIA Lodge. The accommodations, food and service were great and best of all it is only minutes from the airport. Well planned by Michael as we learned after a long travel day. After a day tour around Mount Kilimanjaro we spent an overnight at the Coffee Plantation. It was a great facility and the rooms were really outstanding but the food was only average.
The next day we flew out of the Arusha airport in a small plane and landed on a tiny strip of unpaved ground in the Lobo region. There we met our driver/guide for the next eleven days, Reggie. He turned out to be the best animal spotter; he was incredible, so incredible that we were the only people to see many of the animals in their natural environment. We stayed two nights at the Migration Tented Lodge, the perfect location for our trip the next day to the Mara river region just south of the Kenyan border and the current animal migration. The Migration camp was picture perfect setting with a giraffe standing outside our tented lodge. The staff was especially informative and friendly at this camp. We saw an amazing assortment and volume of animals. The sight of thousands and thousands of zebra and wildebeest running through dust in their quest for water is mind-bogglingly beautiful.
Our safari itinerary next took us to the western Serengeti and the Grumeti River Tented Lodge. Again the lodge was unique and well worth our visit but in retrospect we should have scheduled two nights instead of just a single night. The view was breathtaking with a huge fireplace in the middle of the dining area and the decorations neat with just the right touch of comfort and antiquity. Hippopotamus roars and sounds over the hill in the river entertained us all night. We took an early morning game drive and saw lots of elephants of all sizes walking, rolling in the dust and stripping the trees of leaves. Thanks to the innate spotting ability of our guide we were lucky to see up close two male lions guarding a fresh Zebra kill while the female lions rested off in the distance. This area was definitely worth the visit and with two days we would have added the short trip west to Lake Victoria.
Next we were off to the Central Serengeti region where we stayed at a 'mobile' Private Luxury Camp site at Turner's Spring, right out on the open plains among the animals, an absolutely incredible experience. The camp was set up for our group of six and was our home for the next two days. You do have to deal with bladder showers and if you get in after dark the water may be cold because it is solar heated. Here you really get the feeling you are on an African Safari versus staying just at hotel like lodges. The tents are large and the beds are very comfortable. This camp was our first experience with bladder showers and chemical toilets but well worth the experience. The camp manager and his staff of four took excellent care of our group. We especially liked the time the camp manager spent with us around the camp fire telling us all about his country. He was certainly very knowledgeable and proud of his country. Again the game drives were awesome. We saw lions and leopards sleeping in trees with their big paws and huge bodies stretched out and perfectly balanced while they calmly slept the afternoon away with full bellies. On one occasion our eagle eye spotter pointed out a leopard in a tree with its kill hanging nearby, an unlucky Thompson's Gazelle. The food and atmosphere at this camp was superb but you must be prepared for a camp experience, albeit luxury camping.
After our early morning game drive we had an extremely long drive to our next overnight destination at Olduvai Tented Lodge. I must say that this was our group's least favorite camp although we enjoyed the stay and would recommend that it be included in your safari. The Olduvai tented lodge is much more rustic and one you could skip except by staying there you get a chance to walk across part of the Serengeti and visit an actual Masai tribal village; that is something you should not miss. We were escorted the night before and in the morning by two young Masai warriors who were quite proud and very ready to share their stories. It is quite something to be out walking near giraffes in the wild and meet the village people and see their way of life - a way of life that has not changed since the beginning of time. I highly recommend it if you condition yourself for more rustic accommodations. In all fairness we arrived after a drive that was too long in the evening in a bit of a wind storm. We did have a comfortable king size bed but the tent was smaller than in Tarangire and the showers where outside the back of the tent. We also liked the one in Tarangire because it had wood floors . But again, hopefully you won't let this detract you because the overall experience is well worth it.
Our next destination was the Ngorongoro Crater lodge at the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater. We stayed two nights in luxury that matches the best hotel accommodations in the world, a nice break after three nights in a camping environment. The lodge is beyond magazine perfect. Ngorongoro Crater Lodge offered perfection in every way. The African style decorations in the lodge were mixed with crystal chandeliers, old sculls and antlers of long-gone animals, free-standing bathtubs where you could watch the animals strolling by outside the hut and peer deep into the crater while bathing in rose-sprinkled water drawn for you by your personal butler.....with a roaring fire crackling away in the next room. The service was outstanding and the food and drink great as well. The lodge staff also packed up an excellent breakfast which we ate in the bush on our early morning game drive. As an added bonus the animal viewing in the crater were superb. The lions were so brave and lolled around sleeping peacefully by a Land Rover alongside the road, unconcerned with the passing by of other animals or visitors. We occasionally watched female lions hunting but saw no kill actually take place. We did see the remains of kills with nearby trees full of vultures watching and waiting for the lions to leave so that they could bustle about with the hyenas over the leftovers. The fat-bodied warthogs were the most comical of all the animals as they ran across the plains on their short little legs. We also saw jackal, wildebeest, hartebeest, impala, dik dik, topi, water buffalo, hippos, crocodile, reed buck, baboons, monkeys, gazelles, waterbuck and cheetahs! We never tired for a moment of yet one more look at the ever graceful zebra and giraffes.
To conclude our safari we stayed in a permanent tented lodge at the Swala Tented Camp in Tarangire National Park. The tents were built on the open range where you could see and hear the animals roaming nearby. We had a permanent herd of Elephants in camp only a hundred yards from our tent. Our tent had canvas sides and roof, was built up on stilts with a wooden floor, with a hot shower and a private toilet. We were exhausted when we arrived, had our typical greeting of a cold, wet towel, and a glass of juice, and flopped down on our cots for a nice afternoon rest. At sunset we walked over to the camp fire pit to have a drink. Chairs were set up along the fire pit in the middle smoking away, clearing the air of mosquitoes and other bugs. While we were sipping our drinks, enjoying a lovely sunset, the two Masai warriors started pushing us up onto the patio deck off of the food tent - several lions had joined the elephants in camp for a drink of water. Again the South African camp managers were very nice and along with their staff of twenty four Tanzanians provided just outstanding service. The food was great but the atmosphere and being literally among the wild animals is what sets this lodge apart from the rest. On an extraordinary last night, we dined under the stars, watching the wildlife and of course never wanting to leave. We really had no negatives on this campsite and in fact this location was voted the favorite by our group. The animal viewing in the Tarangire region was outstanding. The density of elephants is perhaps the greatest of any location on earth and we did see lots of elephants. On one occasion in the marsh land along the river we counted well over three hundred elephants in one area. However, there was no shortage of lions, wildebeest and zebras for that matter. We returned to Arusha for some shopping and sightseeing before spending the afternoon in our day room at the KIA lodge, a nice touch recognized and planned by Africa Dream Safaris, before the long international flight home.
In conclusion, its people that make a safari experience truly great. Michaels experience, in-country personnel and brand recognition at the many Tanzanian lodge accommodations allow him to deliver on his promise and provide a great safari experience. We learned that Africa Dream Safaris is a respected name in the safari business in the Serengeti and Tarangire National Parks. Of course the other key ingredient is a knowledgeable, service oriented, hardworking driver/guide and we were fortunate to have the services of Reggie and Yussef piloting our two Land Rovers. Reggie quickly earned the nickname, eagle eye, for his innate ability to spot wildlife that no other could ever see. Reggie was very customer focused and always spoke very highly of Michael and his company. For the record, we learned that Michael has a cadre of twenty eight driver/guides in his employ or at his disposal. He knows all his guides and will match the guide to the group.
Tom and Peg W.