We’ve now been back home for three weeks from our eight day safari with Africa Dream Safaris and the memories and excitement are still incredibly strong and will stay with us forever. We have done quite a bit of travel in the past, and to some very exotic locations, but nothing comes close to this amazing experience. But before getting into further details some background information is in order.
We had talked during the last few years about wanting to someday do “the safari trip” and about a year ago decided to go for it. So began the extensive and exhaustive research, the “where” to go question was fairly easy to answer. Despite a number of countries offering safari experiences the Serengeti in Tanzania was a clear choice. The “when” and with “who” questions were not so easy to answer as there are countless numbers of tour companies at your disposal and everyone professes to be an expert.
We spent night after night on the computer as we researched websites, read numerous Africa travel forums, called a number of tour companies and then several paths led us to Africa Dream Safaris. The ADS website has such a wealth of great information and then the very first call to Michael made the decision to go with ADS a “no brainer”. Michael’s passion, enthusiasm and commitment stands above the rest and was a real pleasure to deal with. Spending as much time discussing options with us as we wanted, making sure he understood what we wanted to get from the experience, offering his knowledgeable suggestions to us all the while never once tried to sell us anything. In the end thanks to his input we decided on a May “rainy season” safari which turned out to be the best choice we could have made.
As far as the actual trip and ADS is concerned, absolutely topnotch from the very first phone call last August until the minute we were back at the airport in Kilimanjaro! Everything was as described and met or exceeded our expectations in every way. The safari itself was incredible and as recommended by Michael (and as it turns out by all of the local people we met while in Tanzania) May is clearly the time to go, lush, green and the park to ourselves! We saw more animals, quantity and variety, than anyone else we ran in to during our trip and this is clearly thanks to our guide Sitta and Michael’s recommendation to go on safari in early May.
We saw all the big 5 several times over and in fact saw big cats everyday of our safari. Some of the many highlights being the cheetah and two cubs Sitta found well off road in the short grass plains and the lion pride with 5 little one not more than 6 weeks old at the lake bed leaving Ndutu at sunrise. In both cases we were able to park within feet of these incredible animals and observe their behavior.
All areas we went to were full of animals (and almost devoid of humans) and it was almost comical that on at least three separate days when we entered a new area and Sitta stopped to talk to another passing driver/guide the response from them was that they hadn't seen any cats all morning and within ten minutes Sitta found us a Cheetah and cubs, a leopard with a fresh kill in a sausage tree, and a lion in a tree in NgoroNgoro searching the grasslands for prey. These other drivers had literally driven right by these cats and the unfortunate passengers with these other tour companies missed out on some great animals as a result of their guides inexperience and/or lack of interest.
We are both avid amateur photographers and took over 4000 photos during our trip but also ensured we balanced our time to observe the animals and their behavior. We, like most, thought: off we go on this “African safari”, mega photography vacation. First of all let us say that getting up at 5.30am every day, jetlagged from a 7 hour time difference after 30 hours of travelling to get there isn’t a “vacation”, it’s an experience and an adventure! We weren’t sure exactly what we were expecting. Even though you read the books, see the pictures, watch Discovery Channel and all shows relating to safari/Africa when you get there somehow your expectations or thoughts on what you think you are going to experience go out the window.
This trip and to be alone in the vastness of the Serengeti was truly a life-changing experience. There is something about the animal kingdom ruling and people moving around it, versus the other way around that is foreign to us but right at the same time. The sights, sounds and smells of being totally immersed in the natural environment of all of these amazing animals defy description. Survival of the fittest rules all, and this was made clear to us over and over by our guide Sitta and by observing the animals. I am the type of person that always asks the questions; why, how, what etc. etc. Sitta was amazing at answering all the questions. It was two worlds so foreign to each other coming together in Africa, and all of us able to laugh at some of the crazy differences.
To be with someone like Sitta for over a week and see how much he cares for the animals, the land, the country and the well being of the people made us do a lot of thinking about what is important and what shifts we need to make in our own priorities to make life much calmer, to be more forgiving and kinder. We realized very quickly that the experience is largely determined by your driver/guide and Sitta has to be the best of the best, a sincere and caring person, intelligent, resourceful and knowledgeable and a pleasure to spend day after day with! He is truly an ambassador for Tanzania and the Serengeti and a great asset for ADS!
The accommodations were as expected, Mbalageti was great and we had the place entirely to ourselves for the two nights we were there. Ndutu was a bit of a disappointment, but was as described beforehand (there just isn’t a good luxury lodge in the south Serengeti which is too bad as this is one of best areas of the park) and was as we would describe kind of an army barracks which I guess is a bit more old school style safari accommodations. Although we thought Mbalageti was great, the Crater Lodge was an order of magnitude better, in accommodations, food, and in service. It will be hard to top this place anywhere in the world and glad we were able to spend two nights here at the end of our trip, and we had the place to ourselves by travelling in the so called offseason.
Michael, very special and sincere thanks to you and our guide Sitta for making this what was truly a trip of a lifetime! The trip was amazing in every sense…the experience life changing. For anyone reading this toying with the idea of going on a safari, don’t hesitate any longer, it is an adventure and experience not to be missed. Not only would we highly recommend Africa Dream Safaris but also strongly suggest that you consider an April or May “offseason” safari, you’ll have the park and lodges to yourselves, and see animals everywhere you go.
Karin and Clint C.